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Court: US must name U.S. Army School of the Americas grads

Published: April 25, 2013
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Source: The Hill

The Obama administration must release the names of graduates of a controversial training camp for the Latin American military, a federal district court has ruled.

Plaintiffs say releasing the names of attendees at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning – formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas – will help Congress ensure that U.S. funds aren't used to train human-rights violators. The Defense Department argued that it would violate attendees' privacy and create security and stigma risks.

The Obama administration “has not established that the privacy interests advanced are substantial, and has not shown through admissible evidence that the release of this information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, in light of the strong public interest in access to this information as shown on the record before the court,” ruled Phyllis Hamilton, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of California.

The ruling drew immediate praise from Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who has fought to close the school.

“The House has twice voted for the names to be restored to public disclosure, as they were for nearly 40 years prior to 2006 when they were inexplicably classified," McGovern told The Hill in a statement. "I continue to believe that the WHINSEC should be shut down. In the meantime, I welcome the Court’s decision and I hope to see the WHINSEC return to genuine transparency immediately with the release of the names of its graduates, faculty and guest instructors.”

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