Rights Groups Call on Obama to Declassify Documents on Secret Detention, Rendition, and Torture

For Immediate Release

Rights Groups
Contact: 

Jen Nessel, CCR, 212 614 6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org
Veerle Opgenhaffen, NYU CHRGJ, 212 992 8186, opgenhaffen@exchange.law.nyu.edu
Sharon Singh, AIUSA, 202 544 0200 x 289, ssingh@aiusa.org

Rights Groups Call on Obama to Declassify Documents on Secret Detention, Rendition, and Torture

Documents Show Bush Administration Exploited Confusion; Obscured DOD Role

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON - The Obama administration should take immediate steps
to declassify and release documents that would allow the American public
to understand the truth about the human rights violations committed as
part of the U.S. secret detention, extraordinary rendition, and coercive
interrogation programs, said three prominent human rights groups today.
 The groups-Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Center for Constitutional
Rights (CCR), and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ)
at NYU School of Law-issued their call after receiving declassified documents
that contradict previous government documents regarding the role of the
Department of Defense (DOD) in secretly detaining individuals in the name
of national security.
 

The more than 2000 pages of newly released
documents from DOD and the Department of State (DOS) were obtained through
the groups' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against multiple
government agencies, which has been ongoing since 2007. Although the documents
are heavily redacted, this particular batch suggests that the Bush administration
exploited confusion over the term "ghost detainee" to assert that it
did not hold such detainees at the same time that the CIA was operating
the so-called "High-Value Detainee" program.  DOD appears to have
used four different categorizations for "ghost" detainees and asserts
in "talking points" dated 2004 that it "does not hold ‘ghost' detainees"-apparently
in reference to one of these categories.  The documents raise more
questions than they answer, since they do not make clear DOD's role in
holding individuals in secret and without access to the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC).  In light of the newly-public report by the
ICRC on the CIA's so-called "High Value Detainee" program, such questions
demand immediate answers. 

"We need a full and public accounting
of the DOD's involvement in categorizing and handling ‘ghost' detainees,"
said Margaret Satterthwaite, Faculty Director of the CHRGJ. "Although
the previous administration was able to hide behind this slippery vocabulary,
the Obama Administration should take all possible steps to get to the heart
of what happened.  Without establishing the truth about past abuses,
the Obama Administration cannot move forward with a clean slate."
 

An August 2004 "Talking Points" document
on "Defining Ghost Detainees" prepared for then-Secretary of Defense
Donald H. Rumsfeld, stated that "DOD policy is to issue an internment
number  [ISN, which triggers notification of detention to the ICRC]
to each detainee captured within 96 hours," and that "DOD does not hold
‘ghost' detainees." In stark contrast, previously released DOD documents-apparently
created in August 2005-suggested that DOD held detainees for 14 to 30
days off the books, and admitted that "The practice of holding ‘ghost
detainees' for the CIA-although limited in scope-was guided by oral,
ad hoc agreements and was the result, in part, of the lack of any specific,
coordinated interagency guidance."   

"Today's disclosures confirm DOD was
deliberately confusing in public statements about its participation in
disappearing prisoners for the CIA's exploitation and engaged in willful
blindness towards the CIA's torture interrogation tactics," stated CCR
Attorney
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez. "Congress's investigation
of the CIA's program must include examination of DOD personnel's role
and the efforts by high-ranking DOD officials to conceal the military's
support of the CIA program."  
 

The documents also include an almost entirely
redacted 11-slide powerpoint entitled "Guantanamo Detention: Transfer
/ Release Progress"-which contemplates options for and obstacles to the
transfer of detainees-dated November, 29, 2006, shortly after so-called
High Value Detainees (HVDs) were transferred out of the CIA ghost detention
program to Guantanamo.  
 

From DOS, the groups received redacted
notes from a January 27, 2004 meeting between then-Secretary of State Colin
Powell and the President of the ICRC-a meeting which took place around
the time the ICRC delivered a February 2004 report to the U.S. outlining
serious violations of international humanitarian law by the United States
with regard to detainees in Iraq. The groups also received a redacted September
24, 2004 cable describing the situation of juvenile detainees in Iraq,
which makes no reference in the unredacted portions to the concerns articulated
in the August 2004 Fay-Jones Report about abuse of juvenile detainees in
Abu Ghraib.  
 

"President Barack Obama pledged to restore
transparency to government but very little has changed in this regard since
he took office," said Tom Parker, AIUSA Policy Director, (Counter)
Terrorism and Human Rights
.  "Governmental agencies continue
to drag their feet and obfuscate when addressing FOIA requests. The material
released to date hints at widespread governmental misconduct, and it is
high time officials realized that the cover up is every bit as damaging
as the crime."
 

AIUSA, CCR, and CHRJG filed FOIA requests
with several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, DOD, DOS, DOJ,
and DHS beginning in 2004 and filed a lawsuit in June of 2007. Morrison
& Foerster LLP serves as co-counsel in the case. This is the second
set of documents released by DOD and DOS through the litigation.
 

To see the most recent documents from DOD
and DOS, as well as the prior filings and the documents previously released
through this litigation, click here.
 

For more information or copies of legal
filings in the case and released documents, please contact jnessel@ccrjustice.org,
opgenhaffen@juris.law.nyu.edu,
or ssingh@aiusa.org,.
 

For more information about the organizations
involved, please see their websites: www.ccrjustice.org,
www.chrgj.org
and www.amnestyusa.org.

 

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