US govt given right to hold info on 9/11 suspects
By Khalid Hasan
Washington: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday handed the Bush administration a victory by upholding the government’s right to keep secret information about hundreds of people rounded up under suspicion of terrorism after 9/11.
The justices, without comment, refused to accept an appeal brought by the Centre for National Security Studies, representing Arab-American groups and civil rights activists.
The decision disappointed Kate Martin, director of the Centre for National Security Studies, who said, “The Justice Department is keeping the names secret to cover up its misconduct, holding people incommunicado and without charges. The cover-up maintains the fiction that the government was going after terrorists when it instead was rounding up hundreds of innocent Arabs and Muslims. Without action by Congress or the public, the Justice Department will be free to repeat these abuses in the future.”
The SC ruling follows its own decisions to accept other cases concerning prisoner rights in the context of anti-terrorist efforts. It is due to hear arguments about the rights of prisoners held overseas at a US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Additionally, the justices will consider whether so-called “enemy combatants” who are also US citizens deserve to have their appeals heard by federal courts. In this case, an American suspect named Yasser Hamdi was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan and is being held in secret military custody.
According to News Network CNN, “At issue in Monday’s ruling was the government’s refusal to release information on about 700 mostly Muslim or Arab-Americans detained by the federal authorities. Twenty-three media organisations, including CNN, filled a brief supporting the appeal, arguing the public deserves the right to scrutinise government actions. The Centre for National Security Studies sued to learn the names and other basic information about the detainees. The appeal raised constitutional questions under the First Amendment to the US Constitution right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and legal questions under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Most suspects were held by immigration authorities, and were investigated and questioned for possible terrorism connections. Nearly all were subsequently released, and some were eventually deported for various immigration violations.”