Aug. 20, 2004 – Rights groups won a significant victory Wednesday in their ongoing battle to force the Bush administration to hand over documents pertaining to the treatment of detainees held in overseas detention centers. A federal judge told the authorities they had delayed too long in honoring various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by the groups over ten months ago, well before the scandal over prisoner torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq broke in the media.
The FOIA requests were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace but at the time, the government refused to expedite the queries, claiming they did not raise "questions about the governmentâ€™s integrity which affect public confidence" and the governmentâ€™s noncompliance with expedition requests would not "endanger the life or safety of any individual."
Judge Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein gave the government until next Monday, August 23 to begin handing over the documents.
"If the administration has endorsed policies that violate domestic and international law, as appears to have been the case," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU staff attorney, "the public surely has a right to know more about what those policies were and who was responsible for them."