October 21, 2004


Heavily Redacted Information Raises More Questions on Responsibility for Prisoner Abuse

NEW YORK-The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today said that they have received from the federal government nearly 6,000 pages of documents related to the abuse of prisoners at overseas detention facilities, including almost all of the annexes to the Taguba report concerning abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The release of the documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with the ACLU's year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act.

"After more than a year of stonewalling, the government has finally released some documents, though many are heavily redacted," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney. "Unfortunately, the government continues to withhold records that would show who was ultimately responsible for the systemic abuse of detainees."

Among the Taguba report annexes was a previously unreleased psychological assessment report examining factors contributing to the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The first contributing factor, the report found, was the soldiers' immersion in an unfamiliar "Islamic culture" and the "association of Muslims with terrorism," which created "misperceptions that can lead to the fear or devaluation of a people."

The report faults the chain of command for the lack of training and supervision and for creating an "I can get away with this" mentality. The report recounts several incidents of abuse, including the rape of a juvenile. It also notes "collaboration" among military personnel and even officers in sustaining or condoning the abuse. "[T]he MI unit seemed to be operating in a conspiracy of silence," it notes.

Another document, a September 2003 duty officer's log for Abu Ghraib, observes that a detainee "was stripped down per M/I he is neked [sic] and standing tall in his cell."

A log of the records received is online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia/ and copies of the documents will be posted over the course of the next two days.

The disclosure comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and other civil liberties and human rights organizations after the Defense Department and other federal agencies failed to release records in response to FOIA requests. The requests sought records concerning the interrogation and treatment of detainees and the extrajudicial "rendition" of detainees to countries known to use torture.

Attorneys will appear before Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in New York on October 25 to address the adequacy of the government's response thus far.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Steven Watt, Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of CCR.

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