ACLU Asks Secretary Of State Clinton To Clarify U.S. Policy On Exposing Torture And Rendition
In Response To U.S. Threats, U.K. Court Rules Torture Evidence Must Remain Secret
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter today to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urging her to clarify the Obama administration’s position related to the rendition case of Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed and calling on her to reject the Bush administration’s policy of using false claims of national security to avoid judicial review of controversial programs. The British High Court today ruled that evidence of British resident Mohamed’s extraordinary rendition and torture at Guantánamo Bay must remain secret because of threats made by the Bush administration to halt intelligence sharing with Britain if the evidence is disclosed. According to the British court’s opinion, the U.S. “position remains the same, even after the making of the executive orders by President Obama,” and, if the evidence is to be made public, “it must now be for the United States Government to consider changing its position or itself putting that information in the public domain.”
The ACLU letter asks for clarification of the U.S. position on the publication of evidence in Mohamed’s case in the British court. According to the letter, “the claims made by the British justices that the Obama administration continues to oppose publication of the judgment in the Binyam Mohamed case – to the point of threatening the future of U.S.-British intelligence cooperation – seems completely at odds with both the anti-torture and transparency executive orders signed by the president.”
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
“We are deeply troubled to learn that lingering Bush administration policies of secrecy and obstruction continue to stand in the way of legal proceedings aimed at getting to the truth about rendition and torture. The latest revelation is completely at odds with President Obama’s executive orders that ban torture and end rendition, as well as his promise to restore the rule of law. Since the U.S. position in this case was articulated by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, it now falls to current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to take prompt and concrete steps to reverse the Bush administration’s systemic attempts to avoid international scrutiny. The policies of the Bush administration have come back to haunt America and obstruct justice in this case, and a clear repudiation of these positions is necessary and must not be deferred a moment longer. We cannot claim that we are turning the page on torture and rendition while continuing to cover up evidence of the Bush administration’s abuses. What’s needed now is an urgent inquiry in both countries to achieve a trans-Atlantic restoration of the rule of law.”
The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office:
“If President Obama’s executive orders to ban torture and end rendition are to become reality, not just rhetoric, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Obama administration must clarify the position of the U.S. and remove any threat related to the publication of the British court’s ruling. It is time to make a clean break from Bush administration policies of torture and extraordinary rendition and the secrecy that surrounds them.”
On Monday, the ACLU will present arguments in U.S. federal court in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc. for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Mohamed and four others who were victims of extraordinary rendition. The Bush administration has claimed the state secrets privilege in an attempt to get the case thrown out.
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney who will argue the plaintiff’s case on Monday:
“Under the Bush administration, the U.S. government used false claims of national security to dodge judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition, even as other countries were attempting to examine the unlawful program. This case presents the first test of the Obama administration’s dedication to transparency and willingness to move beyond rhetoric in its condemnation of torture. The administration should unequivocally reject the Bush administration’s positions and permit these important cases in both the U.S. and the U.K. to go forward. Victims of extraordinary rendition deserve their day in court.”
The British High Court ruling is available online at: www.judiciary.gov.uk/docs/judgments_guidance/mohamed-judgment4-04022009.pdf
The ACLU’s letter to Secretary of State Clinton is at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/38660leg20090204.html
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