Since 2004, the ACLU and its partners — the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace — have been litigating under the Freedom of Information Act for documents concerning the abuse of prisoners held by the Department of Defense and CIA. The litigation has resulted in the release of thousands of pages of government documents, including the Justice Department torture memos that were released in April, the FBI emails that discussed the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, and dozens of autopsy reports relating to the deaths of prisoners in the custody of the Defense Department.
To those of us who have been working on the lawsuit, though, the remarkable thing is not how much information has been released but how much is still being withheld. Six years after we filed our FOIA request, and five years after the Abu Ghraib photos were broadcast by CBS 60 Minutes, the Defense Department is still withholding photographs showing prisoners being abused at facilities other than Abu Ghraib as well as details of abusive interrogation methods used by military interrogators in Afghanistan and Iraq. The CIA is still withholding a crucial report authored by that agency's Inspector General, transcripts in which prisoners describe the abuse they suffered at the hands of their CIA interrogators, as well as hundreds of documents relating to the destruction of videotapes showing CIA prisoners being waterboarded. We're expecting some of these documents to be released to us tomorrow, but it's clear that it will be months and perhaps years before we have anything that resembles a complete picture of how the torture policies were developed, on whose authority they were implemented, and what consequences they had for prisoners held by the military and CIA.
If it's remarkable how much information is still being withheld, it's even more remarkable how little has been done to address the information that has been released. Congress has convened no select committee. The Justice Department has inaugurated no criminal investigation other than a narrowly circumscribed one into the destruction of the waterboarding tapes. The victims of the Bush administration's torture program have received no official acknowledgement, and the proposition that they should be compensated for the abuse they suffered at the hands of their interrogators is one that has not got traction at all.
Earlier this month, the ACLU launched an initiative that will put new resources behind our transparency work and behind the larger aim of accountability. The Accountability for Torture initiative has four interrelated goals.
President Obama has spoken eloquently about the importance of restoring America's moral authority abroad. Restoring that moral authority, though, will require restoring the rule of law at home, and restoring the rule of law at home will require finally confronting the gross human rights abuses of the last administration. Over the next few months, we'll press the Obama administration to do this. As we've been saying, accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative.