US Releases Names of Condemned Gitmo Inmates; Refuses to Release Memos on Drone
June 21, 2013
Ed Pilkington / The Guardian & Josh Gerstein / Politico
The US government has finally released the names of 46 men being held in Guantánamo under the classification of "indefinite detainees" -- terror suspects deemed too dangerous to release. At the same time, the government has ruled that the public has no right to examine classified Justice Department legal opinions on the so-called "targeted killing" of Americans and foreigners.
US Government Identifies Men on Guantánamo 'Indefinite Detainee' List
Ed Pilkington / The Guardian
NEW YORK (June 17, 2013) -- The US government has finally released the names of 46 men being held in Guantánamo under the classification of "indefinite detainees" -- terror suspects deemed too dangerous to release or move yet impossible to try in a civilian or even military court for reasons of inadequate or tainted evidence.
The list of the 46 detainees was released to the Miami Herald and New York Times following a freedom of information requests from the papers as part of the list of the 166 current captives in Guantánamo that has been released for the first time. The Obama administration had indicated the existence of the men in January 2010 but has until now refused to divulge their identities, leaving the detainees in a form of prolonged and secret legal limbo.
The list contains, according to the Miami Herald, 26 Yemenis, 12 Afghans, three Saudis, two Kuwaitis and Libyans, a Kenyan, Morrocan and a Somali. There were two "indefinite detainees", both Afghans, who have died in the camp, one by suicide, one of a heart attack.
The group of captives stuck in this legal wilderness has been one of the most controversial aspects of the detention camp. The US justifies their existence through a range of explanations that include the fact that they were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques that have been denounced as a form of torture, rendering their evidence inadmissible in court.
Notably, many of the men are currently on hunger strike in the camp in protest at their prolonged detention without hope of legal resolution, including, the Miami Herald, said Fawzi al Odah, 36, and Fayez al Kandari, 35, both of Kuwait. There are 104 detainees participating in the hunger strike, 44 of whom are being force-fed, with two in hospital.
The release of the list came on the day that the state department announced the appointment of Cliff Sloan as its special envoy to Guantánamo with the express mission to see the camp closed down. It is not known whether the release of the information was coincidental, though the existence of the 46 "indefinites" pose Sloan, a Washington lawyer, with arguably his most difficult problem.
Omar Farah, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that though the category of "indefinite detainee" persisted they would now have to be transferred to third countries or repatriated to their homes. "If the president is going to be faithful to his promise to close Guantanamo then they will have to be treated in the same way as the cleared men on the list. The government cannot bring cases against these men -- we've seen that over the past 10 years."
Feds Won't Budge on Public Access to Drone Legal Memos
Josh Gerstein / Politico
WASHINGTON, DC (June 17, 2013) -- The public has no right to examine classified Justice Department legal opinions on the so-called "targeted killing" of Americans and foreigners, even though President Barack Obama recently acknowledged that the US used drones to kill alleged Al Qaeda operative Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Obama Administration argued in a legal brief filed Friday.
The brief argues that the official declassification, which also included the acknowledgement that three other American citizens have died in such operations outside active combat zones, "should not affect (or be relevant to)" the appeals court's review of a district court judge's ruling that legal memoranda sought by the New York Times and the ACLU were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
In the brief filed with the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (and posted here), Justice Department lawyers do say that the declassification gives them new leeway to describe the relevant DOJ records in general terms.
"Given recent acknowledgments by the President and other senior officials of the previously properly classified fact that the United States carried out the targeted strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, DOJ has now determined that it can provide some limited additional information about classified documents in its possession that are responsive to the ACLU request," says the brief submitted under the names of DOJ Civil Division Chief Stuart Delery and US Attorney Preet Bhahara.
"DOJ can now disclose that there are a significant number of responsive classified records, consisting of legal advice and analysis (including about al-Awlaki), requests for legal advice, internal Executive Branch legal deliberations (including legal and factual input and comments on draft legal advice and analysis), summaries of legal advice and analysis, internal attorney work product (such as draft legal advice and analysis, preliminary outlines of the same, and related questions and notes), and confidential factual information regarding terrorist organizations and individuals potentially involved in such organizations received from Executive Branch clients," the brief continues.
"However, even with the President’s acknowledgment of the previously properly classified fact that the United States carried out this particular operation, DOJ is not in a position to disclose additional details about the dates, nature, recipients, or contents of the classified responsive DOJ records, because such details would tend to reveal information protected under FOIA Exemptions 1 [classified information], 3 [exempted by statute, like one protecting CIA intelligence methods], and 5 [legally privileged, like attorney work product and attorney-client privilege]," the brief adds.
After a considerable struggle by members of Congress and threats to hold up the confirmation of John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency director, the Obama Administration agreed in March to show the classified legal memos to members of Congress. However, the White House has remained unwilling to share them with the public.
MSNBC obtained a leaked copy of an unclassified Justice Department "white paper" including some of the legal analysis in the brief. That "white paper" was provided to members of Congress on the condition that it remain confidential. After the memo leaked, the White House urged reporters and the public to read the document. However, the administration has never officially released it.
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