ACLU Demands Info on Military Commissions

MANHATTAN (CN) – The ACLU demands that the Department of Justice hand over legal memos addressing the constitutional rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees. In its federal FOIA complaint, the ACLU seeks a 2009 memo on the rights of detainees who may be tried through military commissions in the United States, and the admissibility of statements made through coercion.

     The ACLU said release of the information is of “critical importance” in the debate over what will happen to the detainees if the controversial facility is closed next year, and the “legal implications of trying Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts as opposed to trying them in military commissions or holding them indefinitely without trial.”
     It also wants to gauge what the Obama administration’s position is on the issue.
     The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel refused to respond to the expedited processing request, and said “it did not believe that it had the responsive record,” according to the ACLU’s complaint.
     Acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron sent the legal memo to a Justice Department task force on May 4. The existence of the memo was made public in a June 29 Wall Street Journal article that said the memo’s conclusions “could alter significantly the way the commissions operate.”
     The article discussed the memo’s position that federal courts could find coerced evidence inadmissible under the Constitution in military commission trials.
     Jameel Jaffer is lead attorney for the ACLU.
     On April 16, the Justice Department released four “top secret” memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture.
     Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners at Guantanamo “have the constitutional right to habeas corpus.”

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