From NBC's Jade Taenzler and Claire Luke
The Department of Defense's involvement in the CIA's "ghost" detention program is certain, according to three human rights groups -- Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.
They released documents today from the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State that, they said, prove the existence of secret prisons at Bagram and in Iraq as well as the Department of Defense cooperation with the CIA ghost detention program. They also said the documents show one case where the Defense sought to delay the release of Guantanamo prisoners.
"JS 43," a Defense Joint Chief of Staff document, is a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross that contains information about the secret detention facility at the Bagram Air Force Base. Most of the useful information, however, is redacted.
Another document, entitled "JS 986," affirms that Defense prohibited the Red Cross from visiting the facilities. The document shows that the Defense failed to notify them of the existence of detainees, an action which the Defense, the groups said, recognized to be illegal.
Additionally, Defense did not register detainees with the Red Cross until they had been in custody for up to 14 days and sought authorization to hold some of these individuals for up to 30 days, which documents JS 1026 and 1048 reveal, the groups charged.
But perhaps most notably is an internal e-mail from Feb. 17, 2006, relating to Guantanamo detainees scheduled for release. It recommends to "hold off on return flights for 45 days or so until things die down. Otherwise we are likely to have heroes welcomes awaiting the detainees when they arrive."
The e-mail also recommends using a smaller, more discrete plane to transport the detainees.
"It is astonishing that the government may have delayed releasing men from Guantánamo in order to avoid bad press," said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who represents many of the men held in Guantánamo and has made 30 trips to the base since 2004. "Proposing to hold men for a month and a half after they were deemed releasable is inexcusable. The Obama administration should avoid repeating this injustice and release the innocent individuals with all due haste."
This is the first time the Defense Department has provided any documents in response to the 2007 lawsuit based on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests dating back to 2004, the groups said.
Through their lawsuit, the human rights groups seek the disclosure of government documents that relate to secret detention, extraordinary rendition and torture, they said.