updated 1/6/2009 12:23:46 AM ET 2009-01-06T05:23:46

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the U.S. government can keep secret the identities of detainees who claim they've been abused at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan reversed a lower court judge regarding eight files containing records documenting allegations of detainee abuse by military personnel and documents containing reports of allegations of detainee-against-detainee abuse.

The misconduct alleged to have been carried out by military personnel included spraying detainees with water hoses, striking them, using pepper spray against them and splashing them with cleaning products.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court found that the detainees and their families have a privacy interest in their identifying information. The government had argued that the detainees faced possible harm if their identities were revealed.

The appeals court said that The Associated Press, which sought the identities, had not shown how the public interest would be served by disclosing them.

The appeals court said victims of abuse were entitled to some protection of personal information that would be revealed if their names were associated with abuse because it was the type of information that people would ordinarily not wish to make known about themselves.

"Certainly they have an interest in both keeping the personal facts of their abuse from the public eye and in avoiding disclosure of their identities in order to prevent embarrassment," it said. "The disclosure of their names could certainly subject them to embarrassment and humiliation."

Court: No blank check for government
The court said it did not want to "suggest, or in any way condone, that the government may use this privacy interest to maintain a `veil of administrative secrecy' around events occurring at Guantanamo Bay."

It said the ruling "does not give the government a blank check to keep such information from the public eye."

And it said it does not want to "suggest that detainees should be prevented in any way from coming forward publicly with allegations of mistreatment or abuse."

AP attorney David A. Schulz called the ruling troubling.

"It places a significant burden on anyone who seeks to obtain information from the government if that information would reveal personal data about anybody," he said. "In the past, courts have basically said that even the privacy exemptions that the law contains must give way if the information sought will shed light on what the government's up to."

A government spokeswoman declined to comment on the decision.

A federal appeals court has ruled that the government can keep secret the identities of detainees allegedly abused at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued the ruling Monday, reversing a lower court judge.

The appeals court found that the detainees and their families have a privacy interest in their identifying information. The government had argued that the detainees faced possible harm if their identities were revealed.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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