Twice last month (here and here) I blogged on the suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace seeking to force the Bush administration to respond to the groups’ Freedom of Information request for documents related to the abuse and torture of detainees.
On August 13 US. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the administration to produce the documents by August 23, but the administration still has not complied with the judges’ order.
Yesterday Judge Hellerstein issued another order demanding that the administration produce a list of the documents by Octobr 15:
A federal judge in New York, complaining that the Bush administration “shows an indifference” to the freedom of information laws, has ordered the Pentagon and other agencies to produce a list of all their documents on the detentions at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by Oct. 15.
The request was for documents about the treatment and deaths of detainees while in United States custody in Iraq, among other subjects. The group provided a list of 70 priority documents, all of which were mentioned in public reports or press accounts.
In his ruling, Judge Hellerstein wrote that the “glacial pace” of the government’s response “fails to afford the accountability of government” that the freedom of information laws require. On Aug. 17 the judge had ordered the government to start producing the 70 documents, but none have been released.
“If the documents are more of an embarrassment than a secret, the public should know of our government’s treatment of individuals captured and held abroad,” he wrote.
The Pentagon offered to produce a list of its relevant documents by February. In imposing the Oct. 15 deadline, Judge Hellerstein said the federal agencies could make a separate, sealed list for classified documents they did not want to release. But he required the government to give an explanation for each document it would not release.
Unfortuantely, this adminstration reflects the attitude of the president in terms of the law: it doesn’t apply to them. It’s time to give justice some teeth, instead of issuing yet another order that the administration is bound to ignore Judge Hellerstein should throw someone (how about Rummy for starters?) in jail for contempt.