The ACLU was back in court this week, asking a federal judge to force the CIA to reveal in public documents and information about the interrogation of certain detainees at Gitmo. For the second time, the judge refused the demand because to release that information in public would “harm national security.”
Some of the facts for this article, but none of the legal conclusions, come from Associated Press article on Google news, on 6 April, 2010. The article recites that a U.S. District Judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein, denied for the second time an ACLU demand that the government “release the names and documents concerning the 9/11 detainees who were interrogated harshly.”
The same judge had denied the same relief last September. On behalf of the Director of the CIA, government lawyers had presented an affidavit that release of the information would “gravely damage national security.” The second hearing and decision was required because ACLU attorneys were not present when part of the national security argument was made the first time.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like the government lawyers gave the judge some information they did not want ACLU lawyers to have. This was a wise precaution in light of the fact that ACLU-associated lawyers for some Gitmo detainees have obtained the identities and surreptitiously-taken photographs of some CIA employees, and shared that information with their clients who are imprisoned at Gitmo. If the names and faces of the CIA men get back to Al Qeada, their lives will be in danger.
The second time around, the judge reached the same conclusion, for two practical reasons. As he said, he had an obligation under the law to “defer to the extent appropriate—and that is substantial—to the decision of the director of the CIA.” The ACLU lawyer argued that leaks to date justified the court opening the flood gates. He said, “We believe, given all the disclosures that’s taken place already, it would not hurt national security.”
The judge replied, “I was not appointed to be the director of central intelligence.”
The judge’s opinion is in line with what the American Civil Rights Union has written before. A war that is fought by lawyers and governed by judges is a war that the United States will lose. And that certainly seems to be the purpose of the ACLU, in bringing cases like this.
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