Federal court blocks ACLU from Guantanamo torture documents
Nick Cargo
Published: Wednesday October 29, 2008

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The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned a Wednesday decision by a federal judge that prevents its access to unredacted records from the Bush administration related to the detention of 14 suspected "enemy combatants" at Guantánamo Bay.

The records of Combatant Status Review Tribunals contain the detainees' personal accounts of interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme temperature exposure and stress positions, that they endured while in custody at secret CIA detention facilities known as "black sites" for up to four years, and then Guantánamo in late 2006. Some records of the tribunals, which took place in March and April of 2007, have been released, but none that contain said accounts.

"This decision allows the Bush administration to continue its illegal cover-up of its systemic torture policies," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The government has suppressed these detainees’ allegations of brutal torture not to protect any legitimate national security interests, but to protect itself from criticism and liability. It is unlawful for the government to withhold information on these grounds."

The judge's decision is available here (.pdf).

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU in March, called for the records from the Department of Defense and the CIA on First Amendment grounds and in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, per the request submitted in April of 2007.

"Since this FOIA request was submitted," the complaint reads, "the government has formally confirmed that three of the fourteen prisoners were subjected to the brutal practice of 'waterboarding,' a notorious torture technique and the most controversial of the so-called 'enhanced interrogation techniques' employed against prisoners in CIA custody. In light of this revelation, as well as many other disclosures about the treatment of these prisoners, any conceivable basis for withholding the prisoners' accounts of their treatment in U.S. custody has been wholly eviscerated."

A PDF copy of the ACLU's complaint, dated March 13, 2008, is available at this link.