Federal judge sides with DOD on FOIA exemptions for Guantanamo transcripts

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] granted summary judgment [opinion, PDF] Wednesday for the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website], holding that unredacted transcripts allegedly containing evidence of torture used against fourteen "high-value" detainees [DNI biographies] being held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] could be validly withheld from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request that had already been addressed. According to the court:

Affording defendants’ declaration the appropriate presumption of good faith, the Court concludes that the withheld information was properly withheld under Exemptions 1 and 3 [of the FOIA].
Exemption 1 protects from disclosure national security information concerning national defense or foreign policy, provided it has been properly classified. Exemption 3 prohibits agencies from releasing any materials that are specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided there are particular criteria. The court found that the Defense Department had not waived these exemptions because the records had not been officially disclosed and plaintiffs' First Amendment rights had not been violated. The ACLU condemned the decision [press release]. AFP has more.

DOD published eight unredacted transcripts and six redacted transcripts [texts] on its website, and the ACLU filed a FOIA request to have the full documents released. After DOD refused, the ACLU filed suit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in March, 2008. In FOIA cases, judges have broad discretion to hold in camera review of classified materials.


 

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