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'Major Setback' for Justice as Supreme Court Rejects Torture Report Lawsuit

"The full report is the definitive account of one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history, and the public has a right to see it," said ACLU's Hina Shamsi

The decision is the latest development in the ACLU's pursuit of the full report, which has been ongoing for years. (Photo: Geoff Livingston/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a lawsuit to publicly release the Senate's full report on the CIA's torture and detention program under former President George W. Bush.

The ruling is a "major setback for government transparency and accountability," said Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the lawsuit. "The full report is the definitive account of one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history, and the public has a right to see it."

"Even though the full report is still secret, government agencies have copies and must use them to ensure that a program of inhuman and unlawful cruelty never happens again," Shamsi said.

The decision is the latest development in the ACLU's pursuit of the full report, which has been ongoing for years. The civil rights group first filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the report in 2013, and then sued to enforce it, but a federal district court found that the report was congressional record and therefore not subject to FOIA laws, which apply only to executive branch documents. That decision was upheld in May 2016 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

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A 524-page executive summary of the report, released in 2014, exposed some details of the CIA's torture program and the agency's lies to the public, Congress, and the White House. It found that "enhanced interrogation" of detainees did not work to provide valuable intelligence and that the methods used were far more brutal than the CIA had led lawmakers and the public to believe.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), then chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote in a foreword to the summary that the full report—which comprises some 6,000 pages—"provides substantially more detail... on the CIA's justification and defense of its interrogation program."

Monday's decision by the Supreme Court is one of its first since Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed earlier this month. Gorsuch, a conservative, has already influenced a major ruling with his deciding vote last week that allowed Arkansas to carry out its first execution in 11 years.

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