WASHINGTON – Citing the government’s continuing refusal to adequately respond to previous inquiries, a group of civil liberties, civil rights and human rights organizations filed Dec. 5 the first lawsuit requesting the disclosure of basic information about those individuals arrested and detained since Sept. 11.

“The Justice Department consistently refuses to provide the information necessary to guarantee the American public that those jailed since Sept. 11 are being accorded the constitutional protections guaranteed to all people in America by the Bill of Rights,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the 17 organizations that filed the lawsuit.

“Since we first asked for this information, there is mounting evidence that secrecy is being invoked to shield serious violations of individual rights and not for legitimate investigative purposes,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, another of the organizations that filed the action. “Instead of the Attorney General simply announcing that they are respecting the Constitution, we need the evidence that will show whether that is true.”

The groups said they recognized that some aspects of the investigation must necessarily be kept confidential. The lawsuit, however, seeks only essential information that would, in no way, compromise the effectiveness or integrity of the investigation.

“It is impossible for the public to assess whether or not the government investigation into the crimes of Sept. 11 has been reasonable and effective if the government withholds all the basic information about what it has been doing,” said Hussein Ibish, Communications Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, another of the 17 filing organization. “Democratic government requires that citizens know what the government is doing in their name.”