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New Torture Documents, Same Old Story

Recently received documents detail more serious detainee abuses in CIA custody that were previously unknown.
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August 24, 2009

So the big news today was the release of the CIA inspector general’s (IG) report from May 2004 (PDF) made public as part of our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement of a decision to appoint a prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation into whether federal laws were violated during the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.

But the IG report wasn’t the only big document dump the ACLU received today. This evening, we received more than 60 documents, dating from 2002 through 2007. Included are memos, letters, and documents between the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the CIA about the torture and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.

This document (PDF), a background paper sent by the CIA to the OLC, actually contains an official detailed account of the CIA’s detention, interrogation and rendition programs — from a detainee’s initial apprehension, to his transfer to a CIA “black site,” to his interrogation — and describes the use of abusive interrogation techniques including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and stress positions.

The May 2004 IG report provides a detailed description of torture and abuse of detainees and addresses the legality and effectiveness of the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program under the Bush administration. Although we initially received this report as part of our FOIA case in May 2008, it was so heavily redacted (PDF), we learned very little. While the version made public today still contains heavy redactions, it does include newly unredacted sections and details of serious detainee abuse in CIA custody that were previously unknown.

According to the IG report, agents committed mock executions and threatened to harm at least one detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, with a gun and a power drill if he did not cooperate with the interrogation. Al-Nashiri is represented by military attorneys assisted by the John Adams Project, a joint effort by the ACLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to provide support for the under-resourced military defense counsel in the Guantánamo military commissions.

While we welcome the positive step toward accountability for torture that Attorney General Holder made in announcing a preliminary investigation into the abuses committed, we are disappointed that he is still unwilling to commit to conducting a full investigation and prosecuting any crimes that are uncovered. We will never achieve real accountability by limiting the scope of an investigation, and overlooking those who commissioned and authorized these illegal acts — including those at the highest levels of our government.

Send Attorney General Holder a message today to let him know that you support a full and thorough investigation of torture that follows the evidence — wherever it may lead.

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