NEW YORK — A federal judge has ordered the city of New York to release audio and video recordings of the 911 calls of hundreds of people who were killed or wounded in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including those of hundreds more who were injured and released.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the city should be held accountable for violating the citizens’ right to privacy in response to the tragedy.
“This is a serious matter,” said ACLU lawyer Christopher Soghoian.
“It is one of the first of its kind.”
The suit comes as the city has struggled to determine how to deal with the release of 911 recordings.
In a motion for an order to seal 911 records filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, attorney Jonathan Hirsch argued the records should be sealed because they could contain information that could lead to wrongful convictions.
Hirsch said the government is using the 911 tapes as a “poster child for surveillance and other criminal investigative techniques.”
“I find it to be an important, even necessary, matter that the public has the right to know who is in control of this information, how it is being used, and what the consequences of the government’s actions are,” he wrote.
A judge on Monday rejected Hirsch’s request, saying the records are confidential under the U.K.’s Freedom of Information Act.
This case was brought under the FOIA, which is designed to protect the privacy of individuals.
The ACLU argued the government was violating the privacy rights of people like the victims of the Sept 11, who had already been dead for years.
It said the records were necessary for a thorough investigation into the cause of the 9/11 attacks.
At a hearing Tuesday, lawyers for the city asked a judge to order the city to seal the records and make them available for public inspection.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday that he would seek an order compelling the city’s release of the records, but that the request would not be granted without a court order.
The city will face another court challenge in the coming weeks, and the ACLU is expected to challenge that order.