ACLU v. CIA: Intelligence agency wins court battle on waterboarding issue
A United States Circuit Court of Appeals panel of judges handed a decisive defeat to the ACLU this week that stated the Central Intelligence Agency doesn’t have to release documents regarding its use of waterboarding, or a photograph of the suspected terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
This was yet another defeat suffered by the American Civil Liberties Union in its anti-anti-terrorismbattle with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
The three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding the district court’s ruling, agreed with the agency’s argument that the requested 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.”
Officials at the ACLU have complained about the outcome of their court case, and continue their use of the term “torture” to describe waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation methods. However, while the ACLU is losing cases in the federal courts, groups such as Judicial Watch have been victorious in a number of lawsuits against the Obama administration.
“We are disheartened that the [Obama] 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,” he said in a press statement following the ruling.
The ACLU and others have accused the CIA of violating the district court’s orders in a 2005 FOIA case by destroying videotapes revealing two terrorism suspects being “tortured” by CIA interrogators.
“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,” according to ACLU officials.
The ACLUargued 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.
“But that admission of being unlawful is only an opinion of counsel and for every legal expert calling it torture, there is an equally well-educated expert who will say it is aggressive, unpleasant and fear inducing, but not torture,” said Det. Franes.