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Ashcroft won't name detainees

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Justice Department won't release the names of people detained or arrested in connection with the sweeping terrorism investigation, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.

Such a "blacklist," he said, would violate privacy concerns. Ashcroft did say the department would release an updated list of the number of individuals later in the week.

"It would be a violation of the privacy rights of individuals for me to create some kind of list of all of them that are being held," Ashcroft said.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department's running total of individuals detained or arrested as part of the investigation into the September 11 terrorist attacks had climbed to 1,147, including 185 in the custody of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Justice officials have consistently declined to disclose how many of that total have been released. For several weeks, the department has refused to release any updated numbers.

The detentions have drawn criticism from some civil libertarians, who say individuals are being held indefinitely and for no specific reason.

Ashcroft defended the detentions and arrests.

"Well, we believe that when we have arrested violators of the law that we think have been associated with terrorists, that that is a valuable component of defending the United States of America," Ashcroft said at a news conference. "And we have only detained individuals who have been in violation of the law or who have been, by a federal judge, deemed to be a material witness and subject to being held in that respect."

Ashcroft insisted the individuals are "not being held in secret." All of them have had the opportunity to contact lawyers. he said. The "final touches" are being put on an updated list of the number of detainees, Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft also said he didn't want Osama bin Laden, who is suspected to have engineered the attacks, to get details about those being held by law enforcement authorities.

"If he wants such a list, he'll have to try and assemble it himself," Ashcroft said.



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