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Federal judge orders handover of CIA 'torture' memo

[JURIST] A US federal judge Thursday directed the CIA [order, PDF] to produce a 2002 US Department of Justice memo that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims authorized the agency to use specific torture techniques - including waterboarding [JURIST news archive] - on US detainees held abroad. The memo prepared by the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] has been described by the ACLU as "one of the most important torture documents still being withheld by the Bush administration." Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in his order that he required production of the document before determining whether it could be made public as part of an ongoing lawsuit [background materials] brought by the ACLU and other rights groups under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in US custody abroad. Reuters has more.

In a statement on the order, the ACLU said that for almost four years it had been challenging the government's assertion that the OLC memo could not be released because of attorney-client privilege, arguing that the privilege does not apply to a legal memo that the CIA adopted as a matter of policy. Hellerstein ruled for the government in a January hearing, but on the ACLU's motion "reconsidered his decision after senior officials publicly acknowledged that the CIA had waterboarded three prisoners and after Attorney General Michael Mukasey stated to Congress that the CIA's interrogation program had been authorized by the OLC."

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