The Public’s Need for the Full Story of CIA Torture Has Gotten Even More Urgent

Update (3/16/2016): Shortly after this post was published on Tuesday afternoon, we received word that Judge David Tatel will replace Chief Judge Garland on the bench for tomorrow’s argument. 

Given the recent and re-manufactured debate over torture’s legality, morality, and “effectiveness,” our nation is presented with a stark choice: Do we learn from one of the darkest chapters in our history, or do we repeat our most grievous and heinous mistakes?

With our core values hanging in the balance, now — perhaps more than ever — it is imperative that the Senate torture report see the light of day.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument tomorrow in ACLU v. CIA, our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the release of the 6,900-page report about the CIA’s former program of detention, torture, and other abuse of detainees. (Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, is scheduled to hear the argument along with Judges Sri Srinivasan and Harry Edwards.) For more than two years, the ACLU has sought the release of this definitive account of the CIA’s abuses and deceptions. However, given the visibility of the issue in recent weeks, our fight for the public’s right to know has taken on a new urgency.

This landmark report, authored by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is the most comprehensive study of the torture program to date. It took more than five years to complete and is based on the review of millions of pages of agency records. As we know from a publicly available summary, the full report describes, in exhaustive detail, widespread and horrific human rights abuses by the CIA. It documents a litany of CIA lies to Congress, the White House, the courts, and the American public — including myriad agency misrepresentations about the “effectiveness” of torture — which contributed to a dramatic failure of democratic oversight. 

Despite the importance of this report to the historical record and continuing public debate, the CIA and other agencies are fighting to keep it under wraps. In our suit, the government argues that the torture report is controlled by Congress and thus isn’t subject to FOIA. (The law applies only to “agency records,” not congressional ones.) But under well-established law, there’s no question that the report is an agency record: Congress sent the document to several agencies and did not assert any intent to control it.

In December 2014, when the SSCI sent the full report to the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense, then-SSCI Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked that the report be made available “broadly” within the executive branch to help make sure that the CIA’s detention and torture program is “never repeated.” Indeed, as former Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) further explained in an amicus brief in support of our case, the SSCI placed no limits on the agencies’ use of the report and plainly intended to relinquish its control of the document.

As a matter of law, whether the report is subject to FOIA depends on the SSCI’s intent when it sent the document to the agencies in 2014, and not on what happened afterward. Nevertheless, in early 2015, after Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) took over as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he wrote to President Obama with the unprecedented request that the agencies transfer their copies of the torture report back to the Senate, which could have deprived the courts of the ability to decide if the document should be released to the public or not. After the ACLU filed an emergency motion to stop the transfer of the report, the government agencies told the court that they’d honor the “status quo” — committing to hold on to the report while our lawsuit is pending. 

Release of the torture report would not only advance the values of transparency and accountability, but it would help to settle a contrived and debased debate about the need to torture. We still haven’t accounted for the deep harm torture does to its victims and our country, and we can’t afford to regress even further by burying evidence of our past. Without a proper reckoning, history may very well repeat itself.    

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Anonymous

Dear God if there really is one how about the millions of us you know born in the United States of America Tax paying until Organized Government Despicable Thugs and Psychopathic murdering private contractors kill us off slowly. And for what because we decided to be descent, moral, caring, ambitious, loyal to our country and for this every local, county, state and federal agency slams the door in our face like were degenerates with the plague. WOW! Thank You so much for honoring all of us for being good descent people with Horrors, Extreme screaming pain, complete Financial and reputation destruction. Can I defect to Russia

Anonymous

I concur!

Anonymous

Most intelligence and law enforcement officers don't realize that CoinTelPro style blacklisting is a lethal program. These programs were carried out by all of America's national security agencies starting in the 1950's and far worse after 9/11.

Local, state and federal officials honestly don't realize they are accessories to homicide - in 2016 these human rights abuses against American citizens on U.S. soil are justified using wartime powers - making their actions war crimes. During the Cold War a similar program and tactics were being perpetrated by the East German Stasi or communist secret police, but none of the fatalities or premature deaths were recorded as homicides.

In the United States, since at least the 1980's, blacklisting by local and state police has now turned into lethal blacklists after 9/11.

Once the police and intelligence community are made aware that they are criminal "accessories" in these deadly programs of innocent Americans, they may correct these un-American practices themselves.

The ACLU could play a vital role in educating these local, state and federal officials that (federally funded) blacklisting by state Fusion Centers destroy lives and are lethal programs. Once innocent citizens are defamed within their communities , the harm is irreversible to their victims.

This evil blacklisting must end!

Anonymous

Yes, please. Defect to Russia. Where Putin doesn't directly order his pet police force to harass and assault homosexual citizens, but teenagers and children are encouraged and praised for assaulting, killing, and urinating on their suspected homosexual classmates.

Have fun.

Raymond William...

The Domestic Targeting Agenda in full force and we are shocked by this token representation of the torture program? CHILDREN are being targeted with advanced military weapons. To silence their parents. This kind of psychological and physically assaultive warfare takes place in our owm country. The torturing of children while they sleep takes place in this country. Frquency Assault. V2k. Stalking Programs. Financial hit programs. Slow kill assasination squads. TRUTH
YOU BYSTANDERS ARE JUST AS GUILTY. watching the snuff fIlm being produced. GUILTY.
That's the verdict.
Fuckers.

Anonymous

Love your post !!!!

Anonymous

I myself have been placed in this living hell that I wakeup to and go to sleep to each day and night. I have been made out to look like a woman who has had some type of disease that has left me with numerous scars throughout my body. I reside here in Albuquerque New Mexico life has been as if I committed some type of evil crime or something and my home has become my prison. In reality I am innocent I have cried out to Obama and military officials doctors the police the media anyone and everyone... All so that they could look at me as I was a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of their shoe. I have also heard their rude comments or their laughter as I walk away. I have been and still am being surveilled 24/7 still being harassed probably to silence me... They have entered into their system that I am psychotic and delusional which is nothing more then a huge lie and to cover their asses so to speak...I am seeking help from anyone from the ACLU or anyone willing to step up and blow the worlds mind wide open as they wake up to reality and face this evil sinister right in the eye and take back our freedom and our lives that it has destroyed. I know everyone dealing with this horrendous pain and torture is feeling all alone...You Are Not Jesus is with you all right by your side. Hold on to your faith...Hold on to your hope...Stand up be Strong and Shout Out to All those who are guilty in this criminal selfish act against humanity...That we are some one we are a living breathing man woman or child and we will not be their slave nor will we be silenced and we Will see that ALL THOSE THAT ARE GUILTY WILL HAVE TO FACE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR CRIMES AND WE ALL WILL SEE THAT OUR JUSTICE HAS BEEN LONG OVER DUE AND DESERVED...

Diane

Please reach out to me, I too am a prisoner in my own home, I live ironically in Rio Rancho. I hope you will connect.

Anonymous

On a different topic, the ACLU should focus on the 14th Amendment rights of civilian-spouses and children (including infants) on taxpayer funded military bases. This is a huge issue!

For example: In a state like Maryland, there appears to be no real legal "Guardian Ad Litem" representing the child living on a military base. If the military husband breaks an infants bones and the co-dependent mother allows the husband back into the home - there is no advocate for the infant. Not the State of Maryland, not the military and not the court-marshal judge.

Military doctors working in military hospitals will confirm how huge this problem really today. The ACLU should act on these 14th Amendment rights immediately.

William Jackson

So what happened under Judge Tatel?

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