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Black Sites? What's That? Torture? Us?

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September 3, 2009

Last week, the Department of State (DOS) released a huge tranche of documents on its website in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and NYU Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. There’s a lot of stuff to wade through, but we found some gems.

In this email from Laura M. Stone of the DOS to Anne S. Casper at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Stone writes (PDF):

If iTV ask anything about the Black Sites here, I think we should stick to what we have done before: deny flat out that they exist.

Note that this email exchange took place on September 7, 2006, the day after President Bush’s infamous September 6, 2006 speech in which he acknowledged the existence of these secret CIA prisons — a.k.a. “black sites” — and asserted that former CIA prisoners were now at Guantánamo Bay, and the CIA no longer held anyone in its custody. That’s curious, because this memo from the OLC to the CIA (PDF) lays out the groundwork for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques authorized for use on CIA prisoners in July 2007. If the CIA had no prisoners in its custody after September 2006, why would it need such instruction in July 2007?

In this December 2005 exchange (PDF), talking points are discussed in regard to the U.S.’s extraordinary rendition program. Of note:

Wrong to speak of torture flights — we do not send people off to be tortured. We do not torture nor turn over detainees to those who do. Despite media reports to the contrary, no plane has been through European airports carrying people off to be tortured.

This is plain false. Publicly available records demonstrate that Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc., based in San Jose, CA, facilitated more than 70 secret rendition flights over a four-year period to countries where it knew or reasonably should have known that detainees are routinely tortured or otherwise abused in contravention of universally accepted legal standards. The ACLU has brought lawsuits on behalf of torture and rendition victim Khaled el-Masri and against Jeppesen for its involvement in the extraordinary rendition program.

There’s also some fun discussion of using the term “no comment” to the press in this document (PDF):

I agree that we should look at another, softer way of saying it. As I learned in IO Training 101. Lesson #2 after “Don’t Lie.” “Don’t use the phrase, ‘No Comment.'”

So much for what they learned in IO training 101…

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