Judge orders US to release names of Gitmo detainees

A glimmer of hope. But will the Supreme Court uphold it? From the Jan. 24 New York Times, via Mediachannel:

A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon to release the names and nationalities of hundreds of prisoners detained at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejecting the government’s argument that it would be a violation of their privacy and expose them to retaliation by terrorist groups.

The ruling, issued yesterday by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan, came in a lawsuit brought by The Associated Press in April 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act. The suit sought to force the Pentagon to release transcripts of military tribunal hearings held to determine whether the detainees at Guantánamo had been properly categorized as “enemy combatants.”

Last year, the Pentagon released the transcripts of 558 tribunals but blacked out the names and other basic identifying information about the prisoners. In his new ruling, which he described as “final,” Judge Rakoff ordered the Defense Department to turn over “unredacted copies” of the transcripts to the news agency.

In August, Judge Rakoff ordered the military to ask the prisoners whether they consented to having their names published. Of 317 detainees who received a form with this question, 63 checked yes, 17 checked no, 35 returned the form without answering and 202 did not return the form, the judge said in a ruling on Jan. 4. He concluded that the small number of negative answers did not justify withholding all the names.

In his January ruling, Judge Rakoff barred the Pentagon from evoking an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act that allows information to be withheld if publishing it would be an unwarranted violation of personal privacy. He also said the Defense Department had offered only “thin and conclusory speculation” to support its claims that terrorist groups might attack the prisoners or their families.

Pentagon lawyers asked the judge to reconsider that ruling, arguing that publishing the prisoners’ names would violate the privacy of their families. In his opinion yesterday, Judge Rakoff rejected that argument.

He gave the Pentagon until tomorrow to file an appeal.

The prisoners being held in the military detention camp at Guantánamo have been classified as “enemy combatants” and have not been brought before American courts.

See our last post on the detainment and torture scandal.