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Document a Day: The Secret Beginning

Larry Siems,
The Torture Report
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June 30, 2010

We end this month with the still-classified document that launched the torture program, President Bush’s September 17, 2001 directive giving the CIA the authority to disappear detainees and interrogate them in secret prisons. The directive literally created the extralegal space for the CIA to conduct its experiments with torture.

The directive remains one of the most closely guarded torture documents. All we know about it comes from today’s documents from the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act litigation, where the government has thrown every argument it can think of at the court to keep the directive secret.

The first document is an affidavit from a CIA agent describing the directive generally as a memorandum “from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists” and “regarding a clandestine intelligence activity.”

The second is a transcript of a surreal closed-door court hearing on the directive, in which the government’s attorney goes so far as to claim that even the font of the directive is classified.


To read more about and see documentary evidence of the Bush administration’s torture program, go to

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