ACLU Sues For Bagram Records
Documents Would Shed Light On Detention And Treatment Of Prisoners At U.S. Detention Center In Afghanistan
NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union today filed a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) lawsuit seeking the disclosure of documents related to the
detention and treatment of prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
According to the complaint, the government should promptly make public
the Bagram records, including a list of vital information about
detainees being held there, the rules that govern the facility and
documents pertaining to the conditions of confinement and status review
process afforded prisoners.
"There is growing concern that
Bagram has become the new Guantánamo – except with hundreds more
prisoners, held indefinitely in reportedly harsher conditions, with no
access to lawyers or courts," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with
the ACLU National Security Project. "Yet the public is still in the
dark when it comes to basic facts such as whom our military is holding
there, for how long and on what grounds, and the rules that govern
their detention, release and treatment. As long as the Bagram prison is
shrouded in secrecy, there is no way to know the truth or begin to
address the problems that may exist."
The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU and
the New York Civil Liberties Union in the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York against the Departments of Defense,
Justice and State and the CIA, aims to enforce a FOIA request for the
Bagram records filed by the ACLU in April.
In response to the ACLU's original
request, the CIA stated that it could "neither confirm nor deny the
existence or nonexistence of records responsive" to the request. In a
separate response, the Defense Department informed the ACLU that it had
located a 12-page list compiled by the National Detainee Reporting
Center of information about individuals held at Bagram as of June 22,
2009, including their names, citizenship, length of detention and
capture location. However, the Defense Department has refused to make
public any portions of the list, claiming national security and privacy
concerns. The Departments of Justice and State originally agreed to
expedite processing of the ACLU's request, but have yet to produce any
Recent news reports suggest that the
U.S. government is detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram,
including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an
unknown number of foreign nationals captured outside of Afghanistan and
brought to Bagram. Some of these prisoners have been detained for as
long as six years without access to counsel and only recently have been
permitted any contact with their families. At least two Bagram
prisoners have died while in U.S. custody, and Army investigators
concluded that the deaths were homicides.
"More information about detention
conditions at Bagram is essential to informing the ongoing
congressional and public debate about U.S. detention policy," said
Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security
Project. "President Obama's pledge to shut down Guantánamo will be an
empty gesture if we only replace it with 'other Gitmos' elsewhere."
Lawyers on the lawsuit are Goodman
and Hafetz of the ACLU National Security Project and Christopher Dunn
and Arthur Eisenberg of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
More information about the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, including today's complaint, is available online at: www.aclu.org/bagram
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.