ACLU in Appeals Court Friday Arguing for Release of CIA's Waterboarding Descriptions

March 8, 2012 12:53 pm

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

CIA Argues That Despite Illegality, Torture is an “Intelligence Method” Exempted from FOIA Law

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666;

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union will appear in federal appeals court Friday to argue that the CIA must release cables describing its use of waterboarding. The CIA has argued that even though President Obama has declared waterboarding to be illegal, the cables do not have to be turned over in the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit because they relate to “intelligence methods.” The ACLU is arguing that methods the president has declared to be illegal are not “intelligence methods” within the meaning of the FOIA and the CIA’s charter, and that, accordingly, they cannot lawfully be withheld from the public.

“The CIA’s characterization of torture as an ‘intelligence method’ is shameful, and at bottom it is simply another effort to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the torture program,” said Alexander Abdo, the ACLU attorney who will argue the case before a three-judge panel Friday. “We know from documents the government has already released that the CIA’s use of waterboarding violated even the minimal guidelines established by its legal memos. The Obama administration should fulfill its commitment to transparency and release these additional documents.”

After the CIA violated the district court’s orders in the FOIA case in 2005 by destroying videotapes showing the torture of two detainees, the court ordered the agency to turn over any documents that would allow the public to reconstruct what was on the tapes. The CIA identified 580 documents that describe what the tapes depicted, but it has refused to release them. The agency is also refusing to release a photo of one of the detainees, Abu Zubaydah, apparently taken around the time he was being interrogated.

More information on the case is available at:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.