Lawsuit Seeks 'War Crimes File' And National Security Council Documents
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WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today for documents related to an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the abuse and torture of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. Last month, the OIG released a report on the investigation, which was launched after internal government documents - uncovered by another ACLU lawsuit - revealed that FBI agents at Guantánamo raised concerns about abusive techniques used by military interrogators.
The OIG's report stated, among other things, that then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and President Bush's National Security Council (NSC) were informed in 2002 that prisoners in U.S. custody were being abused. However, the OIG's report was redacted in parts and referenced numerous documents that have not been released publicly.
"It's now clear that members of the National Security Council knew as early as 2002 that prisoners in U.S. custody were being abused and tortured, and there is growing evidence that some cabinet officials may even have choreographed the torture," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "If senior officials were indeed directing the unlawful interrogation of individual prisoners, this is something that the public clearly has the right to know. The documents that the Inspector General collected should be released to the public."
According to the OIG report, the White House's National Security Council was made aware of reports of prisoner abuse that originated with individual FBI agents, including concerns about the unlawful nature of interrogation tactics. Some of these discussions involved effectiveness, while others involved legality, the effect of abuse on the admissibility of evidence, and damage to the rule of law.
In today's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the ACLU seeks specific documents reported in the OIG investigation, including:
- The "war crimes file" FBI agents at Guantánamo began compiling in 2002 to document their concerns about the abuse and torture of prisoners. According to the OIG's report, FBI agents raised concerns with high-level government officials in the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council who did nothing to stop the abuses. The FBI agents were eventually told to close down the file.
- All records related to the NSC's authorization or acknowledgement of interrogation tactics used on detainees in custody overseas. The OIG substantiated reports that the White House-based NSC and its Principals Committee played a central role in the authorization of interrogation tactics on detainees.
"It is time to find out what the White House knew about torture and what its top officials did about it," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "When the FBI or Department of Justice complained about illegal torture, they complained to the White House's National Security Council. The question is what happened then? We want to see the documents."
Today's lawsuit seeking all documents related to the OIG investigation is part of a broader ACLU effort to uncover information about the Bush administration's torture policies. In October 2003, the ACLU and other organizations filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit enforcing the request - including the Bush administration's 2003 "torture memo" written by John Yoo when he was a deputy at the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel.
A copy of today's legal complaint is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/35643lgl20080612.html
The OIG report is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/35402lgl20080520.html
A recent ACLU letter to the Senate Judiciary leadership urging the committee to investigate the NSC's role in torture is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/35587leg20080609.html
The documents received in the ACLU's FOIA litigation are online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
In addition, many of the FOIA documents are also compiled and analyzed in a recently published book by ACLU attorneys Jaffer and Amrit Singh, "Administration of Torture." More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture
Attorneys in the case are Jaffer and Singh of the national ACLU and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area.