ACLU Sues CIA for Reports on Its Torture Program

The ACLU filed a lawsuit today under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the CIA to release two reports about its post-9/11 program of rendition, secret detention, and torture of detainees. This illegal program was devised and authorized by officials at the highest levels of government, and five years after it officially ended, the American public still doesn't have the full story about some of the most devastating rights violations committed in its name.

The first report, by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ("SSCI"), is the most comprehensive review of the CIA's torture program to date. Led by SSCI Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee reviewed more than six million pages of CIA documents and other records over the course of three years. At the end of 2012, the SSCI approved its Study of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program, which spans over 6,000 pages and includes approximately 35,000 footnotes. Senator Feinstein, who deserves major credit for initiating and overseeing such a thorough investigation, stated that the report "uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight ... [T]he creation of long-term, clandestine 'black sites' and the use of so-called 'enhanced-interrogation techniques' were terrible mistakes." According to Senator John McCain, the report confirms that the "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners" is "a stain on our country's conscience."

In addition to detailing the CIA's illegal practices, the report reveals that the CIA misled the White House, the Department of Justice, and Congress about the "effectiveness" of waterboarding, wall-slamming, shackling in painful positions, and other methods of torture and abuse. As Senator Ron Wyden has noted, these CIA misstatements were eventually communicated to the public — but the agency has failed to set the record straight. 

The second report, the CIA's response to the SSCI, presents the agency's shameless defense of its torture regime and challenges the SSCI's investigative methods and findings.

Both reports are critical to a full and fair public conversation about the CIA's torture program, which is why we and other rights groups have urged President Obama to release the SSCI report, and why we're bringing suit to enforce our FOIA requests. The public deserves to hear the truth: Torture doesn't work, and more importantly, it's never acceptable.

We greatly appreciate Senator Feinstein's stated commitment to seek declassification, and strongly support her determination to have the committee seek it too. We anticipate a committee vote soon. At the same time, through the FOIA, Congress has provided the American public with a crucial means to secure release of information, including materials such as these highly significant reports. By filing our FOIA lawsuit, we're pursuing a path parallel and complementary to Senator Feinstein's — a path toward greater governmental transparency.

This isn't the first time we've filed a FOIA suit in connection with the CIA's torture program. In response to years of litigation by the ACLU, the government has released over 100,000 pages of documents concerning the abuse and torture of detainees by the CIA and Department of Defense. (These records are indexed and searchable through our Torture Database.) Though the government's disclosures have shed critical light on the Bush administration's official policies of abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody, much still remains secret about the extent of the CIA's practices and the responsibility of senior officials in ordering them. Indeed, relatively few documents available in our Torture Database — only 106 of approximately 5,000 — were authored by the CIA. Ultimately, the release of the SSCI CIA report and the CIA's response would further illuminate the program's failings, the CIA's internal view of its program, and the lies the CIA told to those charged with oversight of its activities. 

As Justice Louis Brandeis said, sunlight is the best of disinfectants. Perhaps a modest revision is in order: Sunlight is a necessary but not sufficient disinfectant. Transparency alone cannot complete investigations, bring wrongdoers to justice, or compensate victims. But to understand the injuries inflicted by U.S. torture — the resulting deaths, the unspeakable physical and psychological suffering, the harm to our nation's values, and the cost to our security — greater transparency is a necessary step. If the CIA and the executive branch continue to withhold fundamental facts concerning the torture program, such as the information in the SSCI CIA report and the CIA's response, a truly meaningful account of this terrible chapter in our nation's history will continue to be beyond our reach.

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Vicki B.

I think *I* deserve to see this stuff more than or at least as much as anybody.
My daughter's dad died on September 11, 2001 and the government essentially did what they did using his name and what happened to him as the "justifying reason for it" even though Eric - the person in question - NEVer would have wanted people to torture and kill other people using his name and what happened to him as justification.

I don't even think my friend's colleagues would have liked it. His friends Tom, John and Sylvia (and her unborn baby) died there. They were crushed alive under thousands of tons of falling building.
But he said they were "good people, decent people, people who made you believe they would do anything for you."
They don't sound like the kind of people who would exactly enjoy knowing that our government tortured people, even kids, to get information from them that a lot times they never received b/c the person didn't possess the information.

This friend of mine is the only person who, when he talks about what happened on September 11, can bring a humanizing element to it. He talks about his co-workers and describes them as people. It makes it feel more involving than the political aspect makes of it.
I don't know how he dealt with losing 69 of his co-workers, but I know one thing he always does is talk about them like they were regular people, which I guess they WERE to him. Since I didn't work with them, I don't feel the same way, but I definitely catch the feeling coming from him.

I think they should show all of the torture program information to family members, friends and colleagues of 9/11 victims.

Vicki B.

"Terrible mistakes" my patootie. A terrible mistake is when you have white wine with red snapper or spill milk behind the refrigerator and create an ant festival back there, so that you need to call an exterminator to rid the house of them.

You don't call what they did in the name of one my dead relatives - which they used as justification for why they "HAD" to do what they did - a terrible mistake.
You call it "the most disgusting plan manufactured in the 21st Century (so far) that made a total mockery of the deaths of more than 2,500 civilian Americans, some of whom never received their bodies for burial and which the family had to bury an empty casket in its stead."
Of if you prefer the short version, "the biggest bone-head of a mistake that was ever imagined by man or beast."

Personally, I don't see how the victims of September 11 can rest in peace unless the two main people who AREN'T being called to account at the very LEAST have to sit there and be accountable for their stupidity. And explain why ELSE they decided to torture people besides just the lame answer of "we did it in the name of those who died on September 11."

They know who they are ... one of them said "I'm not going to question a single thing I did during my presidency. I'll be able to look in the mirror and be secure with the fact that I made all the right decisions."
Which NO damn president of any TIME should be able to say since no damn person is perfect but oh well. I want to hear him say those same words in a packed court room and in front of millions of people, one of whom voted for him bc she thought he was going to THINK before he made all his decisions, not come up with some lame-brained statement that he can do anything he wants and then "never have to wonder" if he did the right thing bc he's so cotton-pickin' sure he DID do it. He's so sure he acted instead of REacted; well, I want to hear him say it on live television in front of the entire nation so I can look at his face while he's making the claim.

And why should every other person except those who created the bulk of the program be speaking for them anyway.
I want to hear all three people - The Mr. Yoo guy, Dick Cheney and George Bush Junior - say exactly what Dianne Feinstein said, b/c they're the ones who should be saying something and they're not saying anything at ALL.

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