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The Internal Investigations on Abuse the CIA Doesn't Want Anyone to See

Alex Abdo,
Former Senior Staff Attorney,
ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project
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January 24, 2012

Two and a half years ago, the government released a damning report by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) relating to the “enhanced interrogation” program of the CIA. The report was released in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. It made headlines because of its criticism of the CIA’s program and because it is said to have prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to launch a criminal investigation into some of the CIA’s abuses.

We’ve known for some time that there were more CIA OIG reports about the torture and detention program, but a new revelation by the government confirms just how many: 11.

Over the years, we’ve counted references (in both government documents and the media) to at least six additional OIG reports, several of which relate to the deaths of detainees in CIA custody. So, in April 2011, we filed a FOIA request for those and any other reports that analyzed the CIA’s detention and interrogation programs.

In November, the government confirmed to us (in this index) that there were indeed eleven additional reports. Based on the minimal information we have so far, among the most interesting are reports on the deaths of two CIA prisoners, Abid Hamad Mahawish Al-Mahalawi and Manadal Al-Jamaidi, which are reportedly being investigated by the Justice Department. Also notable is a report on the “nonregistration” of detainees, which relates to the CIA’s practice of holding “ghost” (or unacknowledged) detainees.

Unfortunately, although the government disclosed the number of OIG reports it has, it withheld every single one, claiming that releasing any part of them would endanger national security. (To see more about the government’s arguments, see its recently filed brief and supporting declaration.)

If that excuse sounds familiar, it is because the government gave the same one before releasing a heavily redacted version of the original CIA OIG “enhanced interrogation” report in 2009. That explanation is just as overbroad and insupportable now as it was then. There is no obvious security justification for withholding information about the CIA’s use of unlawful and unauthorized interrogation techniques, and we are especially troubled by the CIA’s continued practice of keeping secret the names of the prisoners it detained. Even now, a decade after 9/11, we still don’t know all of the prisoners held by the CIA, why they were held, for how long, or what happened to those released.

The lack of any meaningful accountability for torture and abuse committed in America’s name is unacceptable, as are the government’s latest efforts to hide what happened.

We’re planning to challenge the withholding of the reports in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

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