Policy and News Updates for November 21, 2006

Policy Updates

[new] Groups confront Secret Law Case

Several public interest groups, including a few OpenTheGovernment.org coalition partners, filed amicus curiae briefs in support of a petition by John Gilmore, who challenged a government requirement that he produce official identification in order to board an airplane. The government refused to release the underlying policy document because they claim the document is “sensitive security information.”

Status: Three amicus briefs and the government’s opposition brief were filed on November 13.

Sources: Secrey News summary; Briefs and background on the case

[new] Sen. Leahy requests detention docs released

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the 110th Congress, asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release two newly acknowledged documents on the Bush Administration’s interrogation and detention policies. The first is a directive President Bush signed giving the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) authority to establish detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods. The second is a 2002 memo on interrogation methods that the CIA may use against al-Qaeda leaders. The CIA recently acknowledged the existence of the documents in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Status: DOJ said they will respond to the request appropriately.

Sources: Leahy Seeks Documents on Detention [Washington Post]; Sen. Leahy’s press release, including the letter to Attorney General Gonzales; ACLU press release

[new] Detainees kept silent about treatment in secret prisons

The Bush administration says terrorism suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to disclose information on “alternative interrogation methods” used against them. The government claims the interrogation methods are among the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets, and even disclosure to the detainee’s own attorneys could be harmful to national security.

Sources: U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons [Washington Post]; Top-Secret Torture [Washington Post Editorial]

News from Coalition Partners and Others

Message to the new Congress
OpenTheGovernment.org wrote a message to the new Congress encouraging them to work towards more congressional transparency and accountability and to fulfill their role as an effective check on the Executive Branch. The letter is on our website here. We also added a list of openness legislation in the 109th Congress.