The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 23           July 7, 2003  
Court backs secret detentions
by U.S. government
A federal court ruled June 17 that Washington may continue to withhold all information from the public about hundreds of immigrants picked up for alleged violations of U.S. immigration laws in the government’s wave of post-9/11 arrests. In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed the August 2002 decision of a lower court, which had ordered the government to release the names of the 762 detainees, as well as the names of their lawyers. The appeals court made the decision in Center for National Security Studies vs. U.S. Department of Justice, concluding that “national security” interests took precedence.

Judge David Sentelle wrote in the majority opinion that “the need for deference” to Washington’s “anti-terrorism” campaign outweighs the dangers of the secret arrest and jailing of hundreds of individuals. “It is abundantly clear that the government’s top counterterrorism officials are well suited to make this predictive judgment,” he stated, because “America faces an enemy just as real as its former cold war foes.”

Most of those detained were charged, after their arrest, with minor immigration infractions, such as remaining in the country with an expired visa.

The government argued that release of any information about those detained or their lawyers would hamper their “ongoing investigations” and “endanger the public safety” by allegedly increasing the chances of attacks on those detained. Feigning concern for the rights of those jailed secretly by the government, Justice Department lawyers also argued that by keeping secret the names and whereabouts of the prisoners they were protecting their “privacy.”

The only Democratic Party-appointed judge on the appeals court, David Tatel, agreed with the court majority view that Washington was acting properly by “withholding some of the information” about those who had been jailed. “No one can doubt that uniquely compelling governmental interests are at stake” in its “anti-terrorism” roundups, he wrote in his “dissenting” opinion.

Tatel opposed the Republican judges’ “uncritical deference” to government arguments. He stated that a blanket acceptance of the government’s position “eviscerates” the Freedom of Information Act under which the case had been brought. He favored the withholding of the names and places of arrest of “some” of the detainees.

The appeals court decision follows a U.S. government announcement in early June that it plans to deport more than 13,000 men, mostly Arab and Muslim, who had complied with a federal order to submit to “special registration” proceedings.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home