- Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kurnaz (UK Guardian, 04-23-2008)
- Pentagon’s Guantanamo tribunals are ruled illegal (FCN, 02-17-2005)
NEW YORK(IPS/GIN) – The Central Intelligence Agency has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit demanding the disclosure of more than 7,000 documents related to the agency’s programs of secret detentions, renditions and torture.
The agency refused to release the documents in response to a lawsuit brought by three human rights groups: Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law.
The CIA filed a motion with the court for a summary judgment to end the lawsuit and avoid turning over more than 7,000 documents related to its secret “ghost” detention and extraordinary rendition programs.
The CIA claimed that it did not have to release the documents because many consist of correspondence with the White House or top George W. Bush administration officials, or because they are between parties seeking legal advice on the programs, including guidance on the legality of certain interrogation procedures. The CIA confirmed that it requested–and received–legal advice from attorneys at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel concerning these procedures.
The case is significant for a number of reasons. For example, it marks the first time the CIA “has acknowledged that it has well over 7,000 documents that relate to the torture and disappearance of men,” said Center for Constitutional Rights executive director Vincent Warren.
And Curt Goering, Amnesty International USA senior deputy executive director, said, “Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security.”
He called on the CIA to “stop stonewalling congressional oversight committees and release vital documents related to the program of secret detentions, renditions and torture.”
The three human rights organizations will file their response brief in court in May.
The groups filed their Freedom of Information Act requests last June with several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA. These requests sought information about individuals who are–or have been–held by the U.S. government or detained with U.S. involvement, and about whom there is no public record.
The requests also sought information about the government’s legal justifications for its secret detention and extraordinary rendition program. Comprehensive information about the identities and locations of prisoners in CIA custody–as well as the conditions of their detention and the specific interrogation methods used against them–has never been publicly revealed.
Emi MacLean, a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney, said, “The CIA has been running a program of enforced disappearance and torture. What we are asking for is fundamental to a democratic society–some essential transparency and accountability. We need to know what is being done in our name. Indeed, the documents withheld by the government demonstrate that this basic accountability is what they have been worried about from the very beginning.”
“The CIA has employed illegal techniques such as torture, enforced disappearances, and extraordinary rendition,” said Meg Satterthwaite, director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the New York University School of Law. “It cannot use [Freedom of Information Act] exemptions as a shield to hide its violations of U.S. and international law.”
In its legal filings, the CIA acknowledged that this program “will continue.” Some prisoners have been transferred to prisons in other countries for proxy detention where they face the risk of torture and where they continue to be held secretly, without charge or trial. Human rights reports indicate that the fate and whereabouts of at least 30 people believed to have been held in secret U.S. custody remain unknown.
In September 2006, President Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of CIA-operated secret prisons. At the same time, 14 detainees from these facilities were transferred to US-Occupied Guantnamo, Cuba, and several more have arrived since. The administration has admitted to using “alternative interrogation procedures” on those held in the CIA program, including waterboarding. The international community and the United States, in other contexts, have unequivocally deemed these techniques torture.