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Mr. Panetta: Call Off the Wrecking Ball

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April 15, 2009

Last week, the CIA announced it would shutter its overseas black sites, where many current Guantánamo detainees, including the former CIA detainees profiled in the Red Cross report declassified last week, were held — and tortured — after their initial capture.

On Monday, attorneys — including Nancy Hollander of the ACLU’s John Adams Project — representing Guantánamo detainee Abd Al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed Al-Nashiri, sent a letter to CIA director Leon Panetta asking him not to take a wrecking ball to the overseas CIA black sites just yet. Rather, the sites should be preserved as evidence of Al-Nashiri’s treatment during his detention there. The attorneys write:

The CIA’s secret prison facilities and the inquisition-like treatment meted out to its prisoners were a tragic, immoral and illegal period in our history that we all hope has come to an end. But its effects are enduring, especially on someone like Mr. Al-Nashiri who, according to the ICRC report, lived through the horror chambers of at least three different secret prisons. Those buildings, interrogation cells, prisoner cells, shackles, water boards and other equipment must be preserved until such time as we have an adequate opportunity to document it and a court can determine the relevance and materiality of this evidence. As a criminal defendant, the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution will entitle him to discovery of exculpatory evidence and this is surely exculpatory evidence.

The CIA has admitted that Al-Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding while in CIA custody. Videotapes depicting his abusive interrogations have already been destroyed by the agency, and are the subject of ongoing ACLU litigation. And the same Bush administration officials believed to have given the go-ahead for the torture and abuse in the first place are being indicted in Spain this week: former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former OLC attorneys Jay Bybee and John Yoo, former Defense Department counsel William Haynes, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith and former counsel to the vice president David Addington.

If you haven’t already, please send a letter to Attorney General Holder and urge him to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate torture crimes under the Bush administration.