Appeals Court Rules That CIA Can Keep Waterboarding Descriptions Secret
Decision is Latest Round in ACLU’s FOIA Lawsuit on Torture Materials
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NEW YORK – A federal appeals court ruled today that the CIA does not have to release cables describing its use of waterboarding, or a photograph of a detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding the district court’s ruling, agreed with the agency’s argument that the cables do not have to be turned over in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit because they relate to “intelligence methods.”
“We are disheartened that an administration with a stated commitment to transparency has claimed the need to shield details about waterboarding despite publicly acknowledging that waterboarding is torture,” said Alexander Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, who argued the case before the appeals court. “The ruling also grants the government the Orwellian authority to censor a photograph of a detainee because the photograph might reveal the detainee’s ‘condition’ after being tortured. Were any other country to claim that national security required the suppression of details of torture, Americans would be rightfully shocked and incredulous.”
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 ACLU argued that waterboarding is not an “intelligence method” within the meaning of the exception to the FOIA law, because even the government itself admits that waterboarding is unlawful.
The appeals court’s opinion is available at:
More information on the case is available at:
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