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Names of Guantanamo Detainees Released After FOIA Request Filed by Yale Law School’s MFIA Clinic

The Obama administration on Monday published the names of “indefinite detainees” at Guantanamo Bay after a reporter for the Miami Herald and Yale Law students from the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic (MFIA) sued for their release in U.S. District Court in Washington.

It was the first time the administration publicly identified the 46 prisoners that a 2010 task force classified as too dangerous to release but that were not recommended for prosecution.

The MFIA clinic, part of the Information and Society Project at Yale Law School, became involved with the case in November 2012 after Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald approached students with this request in mind.

John Langford ’14, a MFIA member, said Rosenberg had already done significant background legal research on her request for the names, enabling the clinic to get involved quickly. Students drafted a Freedom of Information Access request (FOIA) in December 2012 on behalf of Rosenberg, which she submitted to the Department of Defense (DOD). When the DOD failed to respond within the statutory deadline, the clinic filed an administrative appeal. With still no response several months later, the clinic and Rosenberg sued the DOD in federal court, resulting in the government deciding to release the records this month.

 “We are thrilled that the Obama administration has chosen transparency over secrecy with regard to the names of these Guantanamo detainees." - John Langford 14

 Other students who worked on the case include Monika Isia Jasiewicz ’13, a recent graduate who was the student director on the case, as well as Laura della Vedova ’14 and Josh Weinger ’14. The clinic also worked with Jay Ward Brown of the firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP in Washington, D.C.

“We are thrilled that the Obama administration has chosen transparency over secrecy with regard to the names of these Guantanamo detainees,” said Langford. “Moreover, we are thrilled to have been able to work with Carol Rosenberg—she is a tireless reporter and her work on Guantanamo continues to be one of the few windows the public has into an issue that has divided our country for over a decade.”
Langford said the clinic was able to call for the release of these public records after President Obama issued an executive order in 2009 calling for an interagency review of the status of all individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay. In 2010, the Guantanamo Review Task Force published the review – which revealed that some detainees had been approved for continued detention under the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress in 2001. Langford said that the review revealed that these detainees would be “confined to a sort of legal purgatory.” The names of those individuals had been held secret ever since the review took place.

With the records now public, Langford said he believes this example of transparency over secrecy will be cited going forward making it “one notch harder for the government to assert national security as a justification for keeping secret information the public vitally needs to assess the policies and practices of those it entrusts to lead.”

MFIA’s mission is to support a robust investigative role for news organizations and to preserve the public’s right of access to information. The clinic recently made news by filing a motion for a release of opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that would shed light on the legal justification for ordering Verizon to turn over months’ worth of phone call data to the government.