The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and The Response
"This riveting film takes you inside a military tribunal hearing to explore the pressing legal and moral issues surrounding the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay. The film not only powerfully captures Guantanamo's failings such as the extensive use of secret evidence, the denial of fair hearings, and the human cost of illegal detention. It also tackles difficult questions America confronts as it seeks to balance liberty and national security in the fight against terrorism. As an attorney who has represented Guantanamo detainees, I was struck by the way the film captured the reality of a Guantanamo hearing, the desperation of its prisoners, and the controversies that rage around its continued existence. The film distills the complex legal issues we have been arguing about in the courts for years into an accessible format. Any person interested in understanding Guantanamo, and the challenges it presents to America's Constitution and values, must see this film."
National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union
Author, "The Guantanamo Lawyers"
"As a lawyer who attended proceedings in capital cases at Guantánamo, I have been particularly horrified by the unfairness of the chaotic, make-it-up-as-you-go-along military commissions there. That random quality traps people of good will on both sides of the debate in a no-man's-land outside the rule of law. The Response takes the viewer there.”
ACLU National Security Project Staff Attorney and the Director of the ACLU's John Adams Project, assisting in the defense of the capitally charged Guantánamo detainees)
As one of four organizations granted status as human rights observers at the military commission proceedings at Guantánamo, the ACLU has observed tribunals at the prison camp since they began in 2004 and knows first-hand that these proceedings ignore the fundamental tenets of due process, and lack the necessary experience in dealing with complex international terrorism trials.
According to the ACLU, "The lack of due process is one of the most disturbing aspects of American detention at Guantánamo, and 'The Response' makes the case that these 'secret show trials' may be worse than no process at all. Through its representation of detainees at Guantánamo, the ACLU knows that for many prisoners, one of the worst features of their detention is its open-endedness, and the film captures an essential quality of this – the lack of information about when one could expect to get into a court and have a chance to prove that they had been wrongfully detained; the dreadful frustration of finding out that the court they longed for was a chimera, that the process they thought was going to give them their day in court was still elusive. Yes, you can appear –- but you cannot hear the evidence or know the identity of your accusers, and even if the decision goes your way, you may not be released."
The ACLU has utilized "The Response" as a public education tool to support its legal work on issues related to Guantánamo and indefinite detention. ACLU affiliates around the country have hosted screenings to raise awareness about the process afforded to prisoners in U.S. custody, and to spark reflection and dialogue about restoring American values and the rule of law in a post 9/11 world.
ACLU Torture & Detention Resources
The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Accountability for Torture initiative has four goals: comprehensive disclosure of information relating to the Bush administration's torture policies; the creation of an accurate and comprehensive historical record; the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility; and recognition and compensation for torture victims.
The ACLU’s work related to torture and accountability for the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody is consolidated at www.aclu.org/accountability, including information about:
Torture FOIA: Since 2003, the ACLU has unearthed over 130,000 pages of government records relating to the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. detention centers through litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Documents released to the ACLU by the Department of Justice include four critical Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that served as the legal basis for the Bush administration’s torture program, which were released in April 2009. In a separate FOIA request, the ACLU is seeking un-redacted transcripts of Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) proceedings at Guantánamo in which prisoners describe the abuse and torture they suffered in CIA custody.
Torture Document Search: The ACLU's improved search engine allows advocates, journalist, researchers and the general pubic to search through the thousands of documents obtained through FOIA litigation. Click here to learn more about the ACLU Torture Document Search.
Torture Program Info-graphic: A web feature that diagrams senior Bush administration officials who conceived of, crafted, and approved the torture program based upon publicly available documents. Click here to learn more about the ACLU Torture Program Info-graphic.
Click here for more information about the ACLU’s Accountability for Torture initiative.
The ACLU recently launched a new site focusing on indefinite detention, and the need to either charge or release detainees that are not properly held under the laws of war. The site, located at http://www.aclu.org/indefinitedetention, includes:
Justice Denied: Voices from Guantánamo, an ACLU video series featuring former detainees who were held by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Guantánamo for years, without charge or trial, and without any meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention.
“The World is Not a Battlefield” interactive map feature that challenges the Bush and Obama administration’s claims of authority to hold terrorism suspects in indefinite military detention, even suspects captured far away from any battlefield who have never taken up arms against the U.S.
Click here for more information about the ACLU’s campaign against Indefinite Detention Without Charge or Trial.