A U.S. citizen who was abducted and tortured while in the United Arab Emirates lost his appear for classified documents that might expose wither the United States was involved in his torture.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by Naji Hamden and the ACLU of Southern California seeking information through the Freedom of Information Act from a variety of federal agencies about his claims.
Hamdan, owner of an auto parts business and a former resident of Hawthorne, California, he is a naturalized American citizen of Lebanese descent. Hamdan had never been arrested or convicted of any offense in the U.S.
Hamdan was the founder and sometimes volunteer imam at the Islamic Center of Hawthorne. Since 1999, the FBI has questioned Hamdan and his brother, asking if they were involved in terrorism and about members of the mosque.
In 2006, Hamdan moved with his wife and children to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to start a new business. On a return visit to the U.S, he believed he was followed by federal agents throughout his trip. In 2008, he met with three FBI agents at the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi to discuss his detention and abuse by Lebanese intelligence officials while visiting his family there.
A month later Hamdan was detained in the UAE by state security, held in a secret location for three months and torturned to extract a false confession of involvement with terrorist activity.
While there, Haman was approached by an English-speaker with an American accent, according to the court. He was warned to cooperate or he would be harmed, the court said.
Unable to get help for her husband, Hamdan’s wife filed a habeas petition in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia alleging the U.S. government was complicit in Hamdan’s detention. Hamdan was later convicted of terrorism-related offenses by the UAE court and deported to Lebanon.
In 2010, he filed a FOIA request seeing information about potential US involvement in his detention and torture.
Some 1,177 documents were identified by the State Department and 533 released, 258 were released in part and 386 were withheld, according to the court.
The FBI indentified another 771 pages of records, with 521 disclosed and 250 withheld.
Hamdan and the ACLU appealed claiming the searches were inadequate and seeking additional releases.
The Defense Intelligence Agency withheld all documents.
The appeals court upheld the adequacy of the document searches and the withholding of records under exemptions to protect national security and records compiled for law enforcement purposes.
The court did allow that any records “whose existence is not itself classified,” the district court should determine whether there is any content that can be segregated and turned over to Hamdan.
The opinion by Judge Ronald Gould was joined by Judge Richard Tallman and visiting Judge Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York.
Case: Hamdan v. U.S. Department of Justice, No. 13-55172