[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] may withhold from the Associated Press (AP) [website] certain documents relating to investigations of detainee abuse at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military prison. Monday's decision reverses an earlier decision by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] that granted partial summary judgment to the AP and and ordered the DOD to disclose certain records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. In his opinion, Judge Peter Hall held that the detainees have a privacy interest in their identifying information and that the AP failed to show how the
disclosure of the information would serve the public interest:
We find that disclosing the family members' names and addresses to the AP, and consequently to the public at large, involves a measurable privacy interest because the information that would be revealed by disclosure is the type of information that a person would ordinarily not wish to make known about himself or herself. ...Last month, US senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) [official websites] released the executive summary [text, PDF; JURIST report] of a Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] report that says senior US officials are to blame for the use of abusive interrogation techniques against detainees held at Guantanamo. The report was the result of the committee's inquiry into what caused detainee abuses and follows hearings on the matter in June [JURIST report] and September [committee materials]. The Bush administration has received widespread criticism for the contents of various documents [GWU materials] from the Department of Justice, DOD, and Office of Legal Counsel supporting the use of harsh interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive] against detainees.
We conclude that the public interest in evaluating whether DOD properly followed-up on the detainees' claims of mistaken identity have been adequately served by the disclosure of the redacted information and that disclosing names and addresses of the family members would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the family members' privacy interest because such disclosure would not shed any light on DOD's action in connection with the detainees claims at issue here.