Court Rules Government Can Continue To Suppress Detainee Statements Describing Torture And Abuse

October 16, 2009

Transcripts Of Combatant Status Review Trials Essential To Accountability For Torture, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

WASHINGTON – A federal court today ruled that the government can continue suppressing transcripts in which former CIA prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture suffered in CIA custody. The ruling came in an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain uncensored transcripts from Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) used to determine if Guantánamo detainees qualify as "enemy combatants."

While the CIA released heavily-redacted versions of the documents in June, it continues to suppress major portions of the documents, including detainees' allegations of torture. In August, the government filed a motion arguing that it should be able to continue suppressing the documents because releasing them would reveal "intelligence sources and methods" and might aid enemy "propaganda." In today's ruling, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia declined to review "in camera" the documents the government is withholding in order to determine if they should remain classified.

The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

"The court's ruling allows the government to continue suppressing these first-hand accounts of torture – not to protect any legitimate national security interest, but to protect current and former government officials from accountability. While much is known about the Bush administration's torture program, the CIA continues to censor the most important eyewitnesses – the torture victims themselves.

"The public has a right to a comprehensive record of what took place in the CIA's secret prisons. The CSRT records will provide critical missing information about how the CIA's torture program was actually carried out and whether interrogators followed, or exceeded, Justice Department legal guidance that purported to authorize brutal interrogations.

"The courts have the authority and the responsibility to ensure that the administration does not deprive the public of critical information for improper purposes. The ACLU will appeal today's decision."

Attorneys on the case, ACLU, et al. v. DOD, et al., are Wizner and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU National Security Project, Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.

Today's ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/41291lgl20091016.html

More about the ACLU's CSRT FOIA is at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/csrtfoia.html

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