Federal Court Blocks 'Truth About Torture' in Ruling on Senate Report

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Federal Court Blocks 'Truth About Torture' in Ruling on Senate Report

ACLU considering appeal to force release of final 6,000-page report on CIA's torture program

"This decision has the disappointing result of keeping the full truth about the CIA torture program from the American public, and we're considering our options for appeal." (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a lawsuit that called for the full release of the U.S. Senate's report on the CIA's post-September 11 abuse and torture of detainees.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said the report isn't subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests—ruling against the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit seeking publication of the 6,000-page document.

"This decision has the disappointing result of keeping the full truth about the CIA torture program from the American public, and we're considering our options for appeal," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security project.

Congressional documents are exempt from FOIA rules, but the ACLU argued that the Senate Intelligence Committee gave up control over the report when it handed it over to the White House and other agencies.

The court disagreed. Judge Harry Edwards wrote for the unanimous three-member panel that there was "clear intent by the Senate committee to maintain continuous control over its work product."

Shamsi added that the judges should have "credited the committee's clear intent to disseminate the torture report widely to the executive branch. Instead, the opinion wrongly relies on a years-old agreement between the committee and the CIA that didn't apply to the final version of the report. The committee later sent the report to agencies, with express instructions that it be read and used."

An executive summary of the document, often referred to as the "torture report," was released in 2014. Among its key findings, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the CIA misled policymakers and the public about the nature of the program. The report detailed the agency's brutal treatment of detainees, including through beatings, shackling, death threats, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and sexual assault.

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