For Immediate Release
Government Withholds Key Torture Documents In ACLU Lawsuit
CIA Defends Interrogations Tactics And Secrecy
WASHINGTON - The
government has said it will continue to withhold dozens of documents
related to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. The
Justice Department was facing an August 31 deadline to release the
documents, including a presidential directive authorizing CIA "black
sites" as well as CIA inspector general (IG) records and documents from
the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) regarding the
CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," in response to two
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed by the American Civil
U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K.
Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York ordered the government
to turn over the documents by August 31 or else provide justification
for continuing to withhold them. In a filing late Monday, the CIA said
it will not release the documents, claiming that disclosing details
about the enhanced interrogation program would harm national security.
"The CIA's justification for
withholding the documents is entirely incompatible with the Obama
administration's stated commitment to ending torture and restoring
governmental transparency. On the one hand, President Obama has
publicly recognized that torture undermines the rule of law and
America's standing in the world, but on the other, the CIA continues to
argue in court that it cannot disclose information about its torture
techniques because it would jeopardize the CIA's interrogation
program," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security
Project. "The CIA's arguments are utterly disconnected from the Obama
administration's stated positions. The agency seems to be disregarding
altogether the important policy changes that President Obama announced
immediately after he took office."
In its filing, the CIA also argued
that the information available to the public about the enhanced
interrogation program should be limited to its historical context and
legal underpinnings. However, the government has already released
several documents that provide more than merely abstract detail about
the interrogations. The Justice Department last week made public dozens
of related documents as part of the ACLU's FOIA litigation, including a
CIA IG report on the CIA's interrogation tactics, a December 2004 CIA
background paper giving a detailed official description of the CIA's
detention and interrogation program and a 2007 OLC memo describing
"enhanced interrogation techniques" to be used against prisoners then
in CIA custody.
"Given the vast amount of evidence
that the U.S. torture program was widespread and systemic, it's
disappointing that the government continues to withhold these vital
documents that would fill in the remaining gaps in the public record,"
said Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU's National Security
Project. "The Obama administration must fulfill its commitment to
transparency and release all crucial documents that would shed further
light on the origins and scope of the Bush administration's torture
program. The American public has a right to know the full truth about
the torture that was committed in its name."
Attorneys in the FOIA lawsuit are
Jaffer and Amrit Singh of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth
Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg
and Jennifer B. Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.;
and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional
Yesterday's government filing is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/
More information about the ACLU's FOIA litigation is at: www.aclu.org/accountability
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