Tribunal Transcripts Would Provide Critical Information About Bush Torture Program, Says ACLU
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged a federal court to review transcripts in which 14 prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture suffered in CIA custody in order to determine whether the government can continue to withhold the records from the public. The filing 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 much is known about the Bush administration's torture program, the CIA is continuing to censor the most important eyewitnesses – the torture victims themselves," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The CIA destroyed videotapes of interrogations in order to hide its crimes from the American public; the Obama administration should not prolong this cover-up by suppressing the victims' firsthand accounts. The CSRT records will provide critical missing information about how the CIA's torture program was actually carried out and will shed light on whether interrogators followed, or exceeded, Justice Department legal guidance that purported to authorize brutal interrogations."
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 light of the voluminous public documents setting forth the interrogation techniques and detention conditions described in the suppressed CSRT transcripts, there is no legitimate basis for the Obama administration's continued refusal to disclose them," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The public has a right to a comprehensive record of what took place in the CIA's secret prisons, and these transcripts are a crucial part of that record."
The ACLU filed the lawsuit, ACLU, et al. v. DOD, et al., in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Wizner and 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 filing is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/41046lgl20090918.html
More about the ACLU's CSRT FOIA is at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/csrtfoia.html