Censorship Threatens Public's Right To Information About Abusive Interrogations
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GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge today to prohibit the government from censoring prisoners' testimony about torture and abuse in their military commission proceedings. Currently, the government cuts off the audio feed whenever a detainee testifies about CIA abuse so that observers cannot hear descriptions of brutal interrogations. In its motion, filed with the judge overseeing the prosecution of five defendants charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks, the ACLU also seeks the immediate release of all transcripts of past proceedings in which the audio was turned off.
"A system that suppresses defendants' descriptions of abuse does not serve national security purposes; it only shields the government from embarrassment or criminal prosecution. That is not justice," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "It's painfully clear that all pending cases should be prosecuted in time-tested, federal civilian or military courts where the Constitution still means something. President-elect Obama has reaffirmed his commitment to shutting down the Guantánamo prison and its sham military commissions, and we are confident he will fulfill that promise."
Earlier this year, the Bush administration publicly confirmed that three of the 14 so-called "high value detainees" currently held at Guantánamo were subjected to waterboarding, an infamous form of torture and the most controversial of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" employed against prisoners held in CIA custody. News reports have also confirmed the use of this and other abusive practices.
"There is absolutely no justification for the suppression of detainees' allegations of torture and abuse," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "It is both illegal and immoral to torture prisoners, and then, by virtue of the prisoners' ‘exposure' to secret torture techniques, enforce a permanent gag on their communication with the outside world. The public has a right to know the whole truth about the brutal interrogation policies of the last seven years to make sure that the Bush administration's disastrous mistakes are not repeated."
In September of 2006, President Bush revealed that 14 prisoners, including all five 9/11 defendants in the military commission prosecution, had been transferred to Guantánamo after being held incommunicado for up to four years in secret CIA detention facilities, or "black sites." In addition to the three known cases of detainee torture disclosed by the Bush administration, it has been widely reported that the CIA subjected other prisoners to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions, exposure to extreme temperatures and waterboarding during their detention.
Attorneys in this case are Wizner, Jameel Jaffer and Danielle Tully of the ACLU National Security Project.
Today's motion can be found at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/37992lgl20081205.html