New Documents Suggest Government Reluctance to Investigate Guantanamo Abuses

January 5, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU Says Key Documents Are Being Withheld

NEW YORK – Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union show that an FBI investigation into the use of “aggressive” interrogation techniques at Guantanamo was sharply scaled back, and that records related to the FBI’s investigation are still being withheld.

“Shameful as it is, the full story of our government’s sanctioned torture and abuse of detainees must see the light of day if we are to ever restore our reputation as a nation dedicated to the rule of law,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

These latest documents were released on the eve of the confirmation hearings of Attorney General-nominee Alberto Gonzales, author of the infamous memorandum that provided legal justifications for the use of torture and described the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “obsolete.”

“Mr. Gonzales bears much of the responsibility for creating the legal framework and permissive atmosphere that led to the torture and abuse at Guantanamo and elsewhere,” Romero said.

The release of these documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act 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 is co-counsel in the case.

Other FBI documents released today include an e-mail dated December 9, 2002 referring to the “military’s Interview plan” along with the comment, “You won’t believe it!”

Another heavily redacted document refers to an investigation captioned “Corruption Federal Public Official – Executive Branch,” which appears to have been referred to the FBI because of a “conflict of interest.” Accompanying the document is an FBI summary of “potentially relevant criminal statutes.” The statutes pertain to war crimes, torture, aggravated sexual abuse, and sexual abuse of a minor or ward, which the ACLU said raises the question of why the FBI considered them “relevant.”

Documents released today reveal that many of the FBI’s earlier descriptions of abuses came in response to a specific request dated July 9, 2004 from Steve McCraw, the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Office for Intelligence. The e-mail asked more than 500 agents who had been stationed at Guantanamo Naval Base to report whether they had observed “aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques” that violated FBI guidelines.

According to subsequent e-mails noting the status of the “special inquiry,” 478 responded and 26 reported observations of detainee mistreatment by personnel of other agencies. The 26 summaries were reviewed by FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, who determined 17 to pertain to “approved DOD techniques.”

For unknown reasons, Caproni declined further investigation of the abuses that she considered to follow approved DOD interrogation techniques. Instead, she focused only on those abuses that were not approved by even the DOD’s permissive rules. As a result, only nine reported incidents were tagged for follow-up investigation.. The ACLU has received no information about the follow-up investigation, and a final FBI report about the matter is apparently being withheld.

“These documents raise more questions than they answer,” said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. “Why did the FBI narrow its investigation? Did the FBI ever conduct follow-up interviews? Did the FBI provide a formal summary of its findings to the Defense Department? If so, why hasn’t the FBI released a copy of this report?”

The ACLU’s review of the documents also shows that other critical records have not been released. For instance, the FBI has withheld a copy of a May 30, 2003 “electronic communication” in which the FBI formally complained to the Defense Department about the treatment of detainees.

“Key pieces of this grim puzzle are still missing,” said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. “Unfortunately, it appears increasingly likely that we’ll have to return to court to ensure that relevant documents are released.”

On December 20, a federal court ordered the CIA immediately to conduct a search of files that have been provided to the CIA’s Inspector General in connection with an ongoing investigation into possible wrongdoing by CIA agents in Iraq. The CIA had previously insisted that it should not be required to conduct the search until the Inspector General’s investigation was complete. To date, the ACLU has received and disseminated more than 9,000 pages from agencies including the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice.

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Jaffer, Amrit Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

For a copy of the new documents released today, go to: /torturefoia/released/FBI_010505.html.

More information on the ACLU lawsuit can be found at:

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