ACLU Sues for Bureau of Prisons Documents on Approval of CIA Torture Site

The Senate Torture Report Details the Visit by Bureau of Prisons Personnel to the Detention Site COBALT in Afghanistan, Yet Bureau Denies Any Documentation Exists

April 14, 2016 9:30 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit today against the federal Bureau of Prisons for refusing to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to its officials’ visit in 2002 to a CIA detention site in Afghanistan, their positive assessment of the conditions, and the training they provided to the site’s administrators. Code-named COBALT and also called “the Salt Pit,” the site held people suspected of terrorism, and they were tortured there, according to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report that was declassified in 2014. In 2015, the Bureau of Prisons declined the ACLU’s FOIA request for documents related to the COBALT visit, writing that “no such records exist.”

“What business did the Bureau of Prisons have with a torture site in Afghanistan?” asked Carl Takei, staff attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The bureau controls conditions for the 200,000 federal prisoners in the United States while teaching its methods to jails and state prisons around the country. We have to wonder why a team from that institution would give its approval to a place where prisoners are kept in solitary confinement in near-total darkness 24-7, shackled to the wall standing up, and with a bucket for human waste.”

According to the Senate torture report, the Bureau of Prisons deemed COBALT, which operated from 2002 to 2004, as “‘not inhumane.’” The team that visited the site was “‘wowed’” by the level of sensory deprivation the CIA had achieved. After the report was released, the ACLU made its FOIA request for Bureau of Prisons documents pertaining to the COBALT visit, and in April 2015, the bureau responded that they didn’t have any.

“We asked the Bureau of Prisons for any and all documents related to an official government trip taken halfway around the world, but they came up with nothing, not a single email,” Takei said. “Anyone who has traveled for work would agree that this is difficult to pull off without a paper trail, yet that’s what the Bureau of Prisons would have us believe. This trip has been documented by the United States Senate. It’s time to come clean.”

The Bureau of Prisons is part of the Department of Justice.

The ACLU is represented by itself, the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, and David Sobel.

The complaint in ACLU v. Department of Justice is available here:

For information about the ACLU’s National Prison Project, visit:

For more information about the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, visit:

This press release is available here:

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