[More on Guantanamo]
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon was poised to release under court order on Friday the names and nationalities of about 300 of the nearly 500 foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, but will withhold data on the rest.
Starting with the arrival from Afghanistan of the first group of 20 shackled and masked detainees on January 11, 2002, the United States has never released the names and nationalities of all the prisoners at the controversial camp.
While incomplete, the new list was expected to be the most thorough made public to date.
The Pentagon was preparing to release more than 5,000 pages of documents relating to hearings conducted at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by military panels reviewing the cases of detainees.
Only 10 of the detainees at the remote military prison have been formally charged with a crime, and human rights activists have condemned the indefinite detentions and the prisoners' lack of legal rights. U.N. rights investigators have urged Washington to close the prison camp.
Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said the Pentagon would release documents containing the names and nationalities of about 317 detainees.
Whitman said the Pentagon would not release this data on all 490 detainees, but not to maintain a blanket of secrecy.
"There is a concern that there could be potential harm to the detainees if personal information such as their name was a matter of public record," Whitman said.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff last month ordered the Defense Department to release transcripts of detainee hearings as part of a lawsuit filed by the Associated Press. Because the lawsuit did not seek data on detainees who refused to take part in the military hearings, Whitman said, their names and nationalities would not be released.
'JUSTICE OR DUE PROCESS'
Rights lawyers said the Pentagon deserved little credit.
"If Judge Rakoff had not ordered the release of these names, the department would never have released them," said Bill Goodman, legal director for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents numerous detainees.
"And that just adds to the levels of secrecy that surround the detentions at Guantanamo, the lack of transparency and the overall absence of anything that would resemble what Americans have gotten used to describing as justice or due process."
The United States has identified some detainees in legal documents, including the 10 who have been charged. The names of others have become public by their relatives or lawyers.
Former detainees, lawyers representing inmates and U.N. human rights investigators have accused the United States of using torture at Guantanamo, and U.S. government documents have shown FBI agents came to the same conclusion.
The Pentagon says the detainees are treated humanely and not tortured. The United States classifies the men as enemy combatants and not prisoners of war, thus denying them rights afforded POWs under the Geneva Conventions.
The United States opened the Guantanamo prison three months after invading Afghanistan to topple its Taliban rulers who had harbored al Qaeda, responsible for the September 11 attacks. Most of the detainees were captured in Afghanistan, and they are believed to be uniformly Muslim.
Whitman said the detainees were not held in complete secrecy, saying they can receive and send mail and are visited by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
source: http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2006-03-03T215154Z_01_N03536159_RTRUKOC_0_US-SECURITY-GUANTANAMO.xml 3mar2006