For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Josh Bell, (212) 549-2666;

ACLU in Appeals Court FRIDAY Arguing for Release of CIA’s Waterboarding Descriptions

CIA Argues That Despite Illegality, Torture is an “Intelligence Method” Exempted from FOIA Law

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union will appear in federal appeals court Friday to argue that the CIA must release cables describing its use of waterboarding. The CIA has argued that even though President Obama has declared waterboarding to be illegal, the cables do not have to be turned over in the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit because they relate to “intelligence methods.” The ACLU is arguing that methods the president has declared to be illegal are not “intelligence methods” within the meaning of the FOIA and the CIA’s charter, and that, accordingly, they cannot lawfully be withheld from the public.

 “The CIA’s characterization of torture as an ‘intelligence method’ is shameful, and at bottom it is simply another effort to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the torture program,” said Alexander Abdo, the ACLU attorney who will argue the case before a three-judge panel Friday. “We know from documents the government has already released that the CIA’s use of waterboarding violated even the minimal guidelines established by its legal memos. The Obama administration should fulfill its commitment to transparency and release these additional documents.”

After the CIA violated the district court’s orders in the FOIA case in 2005 by destroying videotapes showing the torture of two detainees, the court ordered the agency to turn over any documents that would allow the public to reconstruct what was on the tapes. The CIA identified 580 documents that describe what the tapes depicted, but it has refused to release them. The agency is also refusing to release a photo of one of the detainees, Abu Zubaydah, apparently taken around the time he was being interrogated.

The ACLU’s appeal brief is available at:

The ACLU’s reply brief is available at:


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Arguments in the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit on torture, over whether the government has properly withheld documents describing waterboarding.

Alexander Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, will deliver arguments before Judges Susan L. Carney, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum and Richard C. Wesley.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY
Ceremonial Courtroom

Friday, March 9
2:00 p.m.

More information on the case is available at:

URL for this press release:




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