ACLU Files Lawsuit Seeking Disclosure Of Still-Secret Torture Documents
Case Marks Launch Of Group's "Accountability For Torture" Initiative
NEW YORK - The
American Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit seeking the
disclosure of still-secret records relating to the torture of prisoners
held by the U.S. overseas. The requested documents include legal memos
authored by John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, who were lawyers in the Bush
administration Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), as
well as documents sent by the Bush White House to the CIA. The
government has failed to turn over the documents in response to a
December 2008 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
"The information already in the
public domain makes clear that the torture policies were devised and
developed at the highest levels of the Bush administration, but there
are still unanswered questions about precisely what the policies
permitted, how they were implemented and who specifically signed off on
them," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security
Project. "This lawsuit is an effort to fill some of the gaps in the
Today's lawsuit marks the launch of
the ACLU's new "Accountability for Torture" initiative, which has four
goals: comprehensive disclosure of information relating to the Bush
administration's torture policies; the creation of an accurate and
comprehensive historical record; the appointment of an independent
prosecutor to investigate issues of criminal responsibility; and
recognition and compensation for torture victims.
The "Accountability for Torture"
initiative brings together all the components of the ACLU's work to end
torture and hold government officials accountable for breaking the law.
Over the last several years, that work has included FOIA litigation
resulting in the disclosure of more than 100,000 pages of government
documents, including four Bush administration torture memos disclosed
in April; lawsuits on behalf of victims of the CIA's extraordinary
rendition program; the John Adams Project, through which the ACLU and
the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers work with
under-resourced military lawyers to provide legal counsel for former
CIA prisoners who have been charged in the military commissions system;
the monitoring of military commissions proceedings at Guantánamo; and
legislative efforts to ensure that the abuses of the last eight years
are not repeated.
"We can't sweep the abuses of the
last eight years under the rug," said Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with
the ACLU National Security Project. "Restoring the rule of law and the
moral authority of the United States requires us to confront the abuses
of the Bush administration, recognize the victims of that
administration's torture policies and hold accountable the officials
who put unlawful policies in place."
The records sought in today's lawsuit include:
• a legal memorandum or letter
dated July 22, 2002 from Yoo to Alberto R. Gonzales regarding the
applicability of the Convention Against Torture; and
• a 2007 opinion by Bradbury
analyzing the legality of the interrogation techniques authorized for
use in the CIA program under Common Article 3, the Detainee Treatment
Act and the War Crimes Act.
The ACLU also launched a new Web
page today that includes a video featuring a former military attorney
and an Iraq war veteran discussing the need for accountability for
torture, a Web feature about the architects of the Bush
administration’s torture policies and an improved search engine that
allows the public to search the thousands of documents that the ACLU
has obtained through its FOIA litigation. The Web page can be found at:
In related FOIA litigation, the
government is under deadline to reprocess several key documents
relating to the CIA torture program, including Combatant Status Review
Tribunal transcripts in which 14 Guantánamo prisoners describe abuse
and torture they suffered in CIA custody and a CIA Inspector General
report on the CIA's interrogation and detention program. The Obama
administration has not made clear how much information will be
More information about the "Accountability for Torture" initiative is at: www.aclu.org/accountability
Information about the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit, including today's complaint, is available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
Attorneys in the FOIA lawsuit are
Jaffer; Arthur Eisenberg, Christopher Dunn and Beth Haroules of the New
York Civil Liberties Union; and Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jennifer B.
Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.