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Critical Torture Memos Released

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July 24, 2008

This morning we received a crucial torture memo from the CIA in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. ACLU attorneys had to go to court and argue for the release of this particular document, and the judge reviewed these documents in private chambers. According to news reports, this memo lists the specific interrogation methods for use by CIA personnel against prisoners in secret detention centers overseas. But we can’t be sure, because a typical page from this document looks like this:

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The CIA initially took the position that it could not confirm or deny the existence of this torture memo, but they stopped saying that after President Bush disclosed on September 6, 2006, that the CIA had been operating these overseas detention centers.

The heavily redacted memo shows that the Justice Department authorized alternative interrogation methods after concluding that “those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe physical pain or suffering” or “to cause severe mental pain or suffering.” The memo explains: “Prolonged mental harm is substantial mental harm of sustained duration, e.g. harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoner.”

The memo also includes this cryptic sentence: “Your review of the literature uncovered no empirical data on the use of these procedures, with the exception [redacted].”

The memo is signed by Jay Bybee, who also signed the “organ failure” memo issued to the CIA the same day. Bybee is now an appellate judge for the 9th Circuit.

Two more documents were released as well—most interesting is the 2003 memo that indicates that for each session in which “enhanced interrogation techniques” were used, the CIA kept a record of “the nature and duration of each such technique employed” and “the identities of those present,” and includes the names of agents who participated. That information, not surprisingly, is still being withheld.

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