CIA Refuses To Disclose Interrogation Tape Documents

June 9, 2009 12:00 am


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Director Panetta Says Information About Bush Programs Could Be Used As “Propaganda”

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NEW YORK – In another attempt to avoid public and judicial scrutiny of the Bush administration torture program, CIA Director Leon Panetta argued that records related to the destruction and content of interrogation tapes should be withheld in their entirety. In documents filed yesterday in an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, Director Panetta argued that the documents in question should not be released because they contain information about the actual implementation of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” as opposed to abstract information about the techniques such as that included in Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos released earlier this year. Director Panetta also argued that the release of this information could be used as “ready-made” propaganda by our enemies.

“The public has a right to know not only which interrogation methods were authorized but how those unlawful methods were actually applied,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “This information is particularly important because documents that are already public suggest that interrogators disregarded even the minimal limits that the memos set out.”

In April, a federal judge rejected the CIA’s attempt to withhold records relating to the agency’s destruction of 92 videotapes that depicted the harsh interrogation of CIA prisoners. The ACLU is seeking disclosure of these records as part of its pending motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the tapes, which violated a court order requiring it to produce or identify records responsive to the ACLU’s FOIA request for records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas. The government continues to withhold the documents in their entirety and argues that not even one sentence of the documents can be made public.

“The CIA’s withholding of documents because they might be used as propaganda would justify the greatest governmental suppression of the worst governmental misconduct. If we accept the CIA’s rationale, the government could, for example, suppress any document discussing torture, Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo Bay,” said Alex Abdo, a fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “Certain governmental information must of course remain classified for security reasons, but terrorists should not have a veto power over what the public is allowed to know about governmental misconduct.”

Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Judy Rabinovitz and Amrit Singh of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jenny Brooke Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA and contempt motion, including the CIA’s filings, are online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia

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