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Fighting for Sunlight on Torture Documents

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October 1, 2009

Yesterday, we were in court seeking the release of secret government documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. Specifically, we asked the court to order the release of redacted portions of Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos describing “enhanced interrogation techniques” authorized for use by the CIA, as well as documents describing the contents of destroyed videotapes depicting CIA interrogations.

Unfortunately, the judge, who had privately viewed a 65-document sample of the hundreds of documents we want released before the hearing began, ruled that the documents can be kept secret, and that he would defer to the CIA to decide what information could be kept from the public.

Time and time again, the CIA has cited national security concerns in an effort to keep torture records secret. That argument has little merit because of the level of public disclosure about the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program; the fact that much of the information the CIA is suppressing relates to illegal conduct; and the fact that the president declassified four key OLC memos earlier this year. The still-secret information is critical to filling in the gaps and informing the ongoing debate about accountability for torture. The American public has a right to know about the abuse committed in its name.

Alex Abdo, ACLU National Security Project Legal Fellow and one of the lawyers who presented oral arguments yesterday, discusses the details of yesterday’s hearing in this short video:

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube’s privacy statement on their website and Google’s privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU’s privacy statement, click here.

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