ACLU Welcomes Senator's Inquiry on Detainee Abuses

December 10, 2004 12:00 am

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Letter Notes “Deep Concern” on American Actions

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed a letter sent yesterday by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing “deep concern” on the treatment of detainees being held by the United States government in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Senator Bingaman must be commended for asking Secretary Rumsfeld to examine this important issue,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “More and more, we are learning that those held by our military – guilty or not- have been tortured and abused. A reckless disregard for international standards of detainee treatment puts our troops in harms way.”

Specifically, Senator Bingaman noted that, “Recent reports indicate that not only were detainees mishandled and interrogated in a manner inconsistent with the Geneva Conventions, but that subsequent internal reports of abuse appear to have been suppressed… While the abuse of detainees is unacceptable under any circumstance, reports of the suppression of evidence regarding abuse are extremely disturbing.”

He then called upon Secretary Rumsfeld to “expeditiously investigate the allegations of suppression” and to “take immediate action to make public all documents related to cases of detainee abuse not critical to national security and hold accountable those that have attempted to cover up reports of detainee abuse.”

On Tuesday, the ACLU released a series of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showing that a special operations task force in Iraq sought to silence Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who observed abusive interrogations. It also showed that the Department of Defense adopted questionable interrogation techniques at Guantanamo despite objections from the FBI.

The release of the documents followed a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old FOIA request filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union was co-counsel in the case.

“What is most disconcerting is that this is probably only the tip of the iceberg,” added Murphy. “Sadly, the government has tried to hide these abuses behind a cloud of secrecy. That cloud must be lifted so that the country can get to the bottom of this. The ACLU calls upon all members of Congress to join Senator Bingaman is his reasoned request to the Department of Defense.”

Senator Bingaman’s letter is posted at: /node/23136.

The documents obtained by the ACLU are available at: /torturefoia.

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