NEW YORK — In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Central Intelligence Agency today released over 50 documents detailing the agency’s torture and rendition program under the Bush administration.
The ACLU filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documents that were referenced in the Senate report on the CIA program made public in December 2014. The report found that torture did not work and the agency lied about it to Congress, the White House, the Justice Department, and the public.
“These newly declassified records add new detail to the public record of the CIA's torture program and underscore the cruelty of the methods the agency used in its secret, overseas black sites,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It bears emphasis that these records document grave crimes for which no senior official has been held accountable.”
The documents include new records about the death of Gul Rahman, who died at a CIA secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002. The CIA “Death Report” on Rahman released today details the horrific conditions he was subjected to:
“Often, prisoners who possess significant or imminent threat information are stripped to their diapers during interrogation and placed back into their cells wearing only diapers. This is done solely to humiliate the prisoner for interrogation purposes. When the prisoner soils a diaper, they are changed by the guards. Sometimes the guards run out of diapers and the prisoners are placed back in their cells in a handcrafted diaper secured by duct tape. If the guards don't have any available diapers, the prisoners are rendered to their cell nude.”
Rahan froze to death in his cell, naked from the waist down. The ACLU represents Rahman’s family in a lawsuit against the two CIA-contracted psychologists who designed and implemented the torture program, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen.
“In a visceral way, these raw documents drive home the inhumanity of the torture conceived and carried out by Mitchell and Jessen in collaboration with the CIA,” said Dror Ladin, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The documents reveal that Rahman was brutalized in part because his torturers decided that complaining about his torture was a form of resistance and he needed to be ‘broken.’”
Also included is a draft letter from the CIA to the Justice Department — cc-ing Mitchell — concluding that the torture they intended to inflict on Abu Zubaydah “normally would appear to be prohibited under the provisions” of the Torture Act, a federal law against torturing people. The draft letter is a “request” that the attorney general “grant a formal declination of prosecution” for torture.
Other new disclosures reveal the CIA’s concerns that detainees who had been tortured should be kept hidden from representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross for the rest of their lives.
“We’re seeing just how much Mitchell, Jessen, and their CIA co-conspirators knew that what they were doing was wrong and illegal. They talked about seeking a get-out-of-jail-free card for torturing people, and then discussed how to make sure their victims were silenced forever, even if they survived their torture,” Ladin added.
In April, a federal court ruled that the ACLU’s lawsuit against the psychologists could proceed. On June 22, Mitchell and Jessen must provide their answer to each of the allegations in the legal complaint.
The documents released today also include a 2007 CIA inspector general’s report finding that the kidnapping and torture of German citizen Khalid El-Masri was a case of mistaken identity. The report referenced CIA cables on El-Masri’s despair:
“The cable cited that al-Masri compared his situation to a Kafka novel—he could not possibly prove his innocence because he did not know what he was being charged with. The cable reported al-Masri as saying he had nearly reached the end of what he could bear and as of May 2004 he would begin a total hunger strike to his death.”
A 2005 ACLU lawsuit on behalf of El-Masri against former CIA Director George Tenet was dismissed by lower courts on the grounds that it would reveal “state secrets,” and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The ACLU now represents El-Masri in a pending case against the U.S. before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
At least two of the documents concerning Gul Rahman — the IG report and the detainee death investigation — were simultaneously provided to Vice News in response to its FOIA request.
The documents are in the ACLU's Torture Database at:
The searchable Torture Database has over 100,000 documents released by the government about U.S. torture.