For Immediate Release
ACLU Sues for Memo on Constitutional Rights in Guantánamo Military Commissions
Justice Department Memo Reportedly Addresses Legal Rights of Detainees and Admissibility of Coerced Evidence
NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union
filed a lawsuit today demanding disclosure of a legal memo from the
Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that reportedly
addresses the constitutional rights that Guantánamo detainees could
legally claim during military commission proceedings in the U.S. The
memo, drafted in May 2009, also reportedly addresses the admissibility
of statements obtained through coercion in those proceedings. The ACLU
filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District
of New York under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
"The Obama administration's
continued support of the failed military commission system is at the
center of much public attention and controversy," said Jonathan Hafetz,
staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The release of
the OLC memo on detainee rights would help to clarify this
administration's position on military commissions and deepen the
public's understanding of this important issue."
David Barron, Acting Assistant
Attorney General of the OLC, sent the memo to a Justice Department task
force on May 4, 2009. The existence of the memo was made public in a
June 29 Wall Street Journal article that asserted that the memo's
conclusions "could alter significantly the way the commissions
operate." The article also discussed the memo's position that federal
courts would find coerced evidence inadmissible under the Constitution
in military commission trials.
"As the Obama administration
prepares to close Guantánamo and considers the fate of the detainees
who are still there, it is important to inform the American people
about the procedures that the government will be utilizing in
determining the legal status of the detainees and for the government to
discuss openly its understanding of the constitutional principles that
will bear upon such procedures," said Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director
of the NYCLU. "While it's encouraging that the administration is
attempting to meet the deadline for closing Guantánamo, any new
arrangement must respect American values of due process."
The government failed to respond to
the ACLU's original FOIA request, and today's complaint seeks to
enforce that request and compel the government to turn over the OLC
Attorneys on the case are Hafetz, Eisenberg and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU.
The ACLU's FOIA complaint is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.