The Supreme Court yesterday declined to hear an appeal by civil liberties groups seeking access to basic data about hundreds of individuals detained by the federal government after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a decision that allows officials to continue withholding the names of most detainees, as well as other information related to their arrests, indefinitely. In a brief order released without published dissent, the court turned down a petition by the Center for National Security Studies, the American Civil Liberties Union and several media organizations that had argued that the Bush administration’s refusal to release information about the detainees violated the Freedom of Information Act and the constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press. The Washington Post Co. filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the petition. Although it sets no precedent, the court’s decision is a significant victory for the Bush administration, which has argued that fighting an unconventional war against terrorists requires the executive branch to assert broad new authority to arrest and detain suspected members of al Qaeda — and to withhold much information about how it wields that authority so that terrorist organizations do not learn too much about the government’s strategy and tactics. Full Story
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