For Immediate Release
Rights Groups Demand CIA Turn Over 49 Cables Relating to Use of Waterboarding
Lawsuit Seeks Further CIA and DOJ Documents about Secret Detention, Rendition, and Torture Program
NEW YORK - The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) must turn over information
regarding 49 cables it has admitted it has in its possession related to
the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said three prominent human
rights groups today. The groups-Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the International Human
Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law's Center for Human Rights and Global
Justice (NYU IHRC/CHRGJ)-filed the papers Monday night, as part of an
ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit they have brought
against multiple government agencies, including the CIA, seeking
information on the administration's secret detention, rendition, and
The human rights advocates are challenging the agency's refusal to
provide these cables related to the waterboarding of Mr. Mohammed,
charging that the government has already publicly admitted the former
ghost detainee and current Guantanamo detainee was waterboarded while
being held in the CIA's secret detention program. However, in response
to this FOIA litigation, the CIA has refused to adhere to its most
basic disclosure obligations.
"We can no longer allow the details of the calculated program of
torture inflicted on detainees within U.S. custody to remain secret,"
said CCR Staff Attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez. "Where convenient, the
U.S. government has acknowledged the use of specific torture
practices. Yet, the government continues to hide behind improper
classification arguments in this case. The public has a right to know
what is being done in our name."
The CIA also refused to confirm or deny the existence of cables between
the CIA and field operatives regarding the use of coercive
interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Mohammed. In addition,
the agency continues to deny communications between the United States
and the Yemeni government relating to other detainees-such as Yemeni
national Mohamed Bashmilah, who survived years of secret detention,
only to be released without any acknowledgment or explanation for his
treatment-despite the fact that the Yemeni government has itself
acknowledged such communications took place. The rights groups in the
case challenged as disingenuous the government's assertion that the
very acknowledgment that such records exist will cause any harm to
"The CIA's refusal to simply acknowledge the existence of documents
that have been widely reported on shows once again how it chooses
national security over human rights and smoke and mirrors over
transparency," said Jayne Huckerby, Research Director of CHRGJ. "In
the wake of the 2008 U.S. election, we are hopeful that this country's
renewed commitment to human rights will make the CIA's obfuscation a
relic of the past."
In response to the lawsuit brought jointly by AIUSA, CCR and NYU
IHRC/CHRGJ, the CIA admitted to having 10,000 documents relating to the
FOIA request. However, agency officials refused to release the vast
majority of those documents and failed to provide adequate explanation.
"It is essential that the U.S. public be able to see for itself the
shocking details of this government's torture policy and practices,"
said Curt Goering, AIUSA's Senior Deputy Executive Director. "Without
such a reckoning, the country can not, will not, and should not
relegate this dark chapter to the history books."
AIUSA, CCR, and NYU IHRC/CHRGJ have filed FOIA requests with several
U.S. government agencies, including the CIA. They filed the lawsuit in
June of 2007. Morrison & Foerster LLP serves as co-counsel in the
case. The FOIA litigation seeks information about individuals who
are-or have been-held by the U.S. government or detained with U.S.
involvement, as part of the government's ghost detention, rendition,
and coercive interrogation program. The requests also sought
information about the government's legal justifications for its secret
detention and extraordinary rendition programs. Comprehensive
information about the identities and locations of prisoners in CIA
custody-as well as the conditions of their detention and the specific
interrogation methods used against them-has never been publicly
revealed. The rights groups charge that this lack of transparency
continues to prevent scrutiny by the public or the courts and leaves
detainees vulnerable to abuse and torture.
The CIA did release some documents in response to the FOIA
request-including communications between members of Congress and the
CIA, and documents related to congressional briefings. However, the
CIA and other government agencies have withheld thousands of pages of
records, hiding thousands of documents responsive to the requests
behind classification arguments.
In its legal filings, the CIA has acknowledged that this program "will
continue." Some prisoners have been transferred to prisons in other
countries for proxy detention where they face the risk of torture and
where they continue to be held secretly, without charge or trial.
Human rights reports indicate that the fate and whereabouts of at least
30 people believed to have been held in secret U.S. custody remain
To learn more about this case, click here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.