ACLU Obtains Detailed Official Record Of CIA Torture Program

August 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Justice Department Documents Describe Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Used As Late As 2007

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NEW YORK – The government today handed over to the American Civil Liberties Union a detailed official description of the CIA’s interrogation program. That document, a December 2004 CIA background paper sent to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), provides a detailed official 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 document was one of dozens of documents, comprising hundreds of pages, that were made public today in response to two ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits for documents related to the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody overseas.

“The background paper is a profoundly disturbing document that illustrates, as well as anything could, how far the CIA strayed from the law and from values that are integral to our democracy,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “That the barbaric methods outlined in the paper were approved by the country’s senior-most officials is particularly appalling.”

Another document provided to the ACLU is a July 2007 memo from Steven Bradbury, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, to John Rizzo, Acting CIA General Counsel. The memo describes six “enhanced interrogation techniques” to be used against prisoners then in CIA custody, including dietary manipulation, extended sleep deprivation, facial hold, attention grasp, abdominal slap and insult/facial slap. Notably, President Bush announced in September 2006 that 14 prisoners in CIA custody had been transferred to the Defense Department at Guantánamo and that at that time no prisoners remained in CIA custody.

“The background paper and the rest of the Justice Department OLC documents turned over today shed further light on the origins and scope of the Bush administration’s torture program,” said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney for the ACLU. “These documents provide critical details about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program following the enactment of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. It is troubling to see that many of the CIA’s coercive interrogation methods survived despite the passage of that law. Collectively, the OLC documents, along with the CIA Inspector General report released earlier today, further underscore the need for a full investigation into the torture of prisoners and those who authorized it. The Obama administration made a commitment to transparency, and the release of documents related to the Bush administration’s torture program is a positive step.”

The OLC documents are available online at: and

Earlier today, the ACLU released a CIA Inspector General report on the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program and related documents. Those documents are available online at:

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA litigation is at:

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