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CIA Refuses to Hand Over Torture Tape Documents

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June 9, 2009

Yesterday, we received word that CIA Director Leon Panetta had filed documents in federal court arguing that the agency cannot release documents related to the destruction of 92 videotapes depicting the harsh interrogation of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. The CIA disclosed back in March that it has a list of roughly 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to 92 interrogation videotapes that were destroyed by the agency. In April, a federal judge rejected the CIA’s attempt to withhold these records.

In yesterday’s filings, Panetta argues that the documents contain information about the actual implementation of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” as opposed to abstract information about the techniques such as that included in Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos released earlier this year. Director Panetta also argued that the release of this information could be used as “ready-made” propaganda by our enemies.

Alex Abdo, a fellow with the ACLU National Security Project said in a statement today:

The CIA’s withholding of documents because they might be used as propaganda would justify the greatest governmental suppression of the worst governmental misconduct. If we accept the CIA’s rationale, the government could, for example, suppress any document discussing torture, Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo Bay. Certain governmental information must of course remain classified for security reasons, but terrorists should not have a veto power over what the public is allowed to know about governmental misconduct.

The ACLU is seeking disclosure of these records as part of its pending motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the tapes, which violated a court order requiring it to produce or identify records responsive to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act for records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas. The government continues to withhold the documents in their entirety and argues that not even one sentence of the documents can be made public.

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