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CIA releases documents describing Guantanamo detainee torture, abuse

[JURIST] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] on Monday released redacted documents that describe the alleged torture and abuse of Guantanamo Bay detainees in CIA custody, transcribed from Combatant Status Review Tribunal [JURIST news archives] hearings. The documents, released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], concern detainees Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, Abd al-Rahimal al-Nashiri, and Abu Zubaydah [transcripts, PDF]. Although they are still considerably redacted, the transcripts contain new information that was not made available in previously released versions. In his testimony, Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of the 9/11 attacks, told the tribunal that he lied to the CIA after being tortured during questioning. Khan maintained that any information the tribunal obtained from him was obtained through "agencies who physically and mentally tortured" him. Suspected USS Cole bomber al-Nashiri told the tribunal that investigators used to drown him in water to get him to admit to untrue allegations, a likely reference to waterboarding [JURIST news archive]. Zubaydah described months of physical and mental torture during which he almost died that resulted in injuries to his eye, stomach, bladder, and reproductive organs. The tribunals were held to determine if the detainees qualified as "enemy combatants." ACLU lawyer Ben Wizer, who led the FOIA suit, addressed the release of the documents [press release] and the need for non-redacted versions of them:

The documents released today provide further evidence of brutal torture and abuse in the CIA's interrogation program and demonstrate beyond doubt that this information has been suppressed solely to avoid embarrassment and growing demands for accountability. There is no legitimate basis for the Obama administration's continued refusal to disclose allegations of detainee abuse, and we will return to court to seek the full release of these documents.

Director of the ACLU National Security Project [official website] Jameel Jaffer urged the US government to "make good on its commitment to transparency" by holding officials accountable and stopping the suppression of information regarding torture and abuse.

Last week, a federal judge allowed a torture lawsuit [JURIST report] to proceed against former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive]. The suit against Yoo alleged that the legal scholar endorsed enhanced interrogation techniques [JURIST news archive] that led to torture and was the first time a judge has allowed a suit to proceed against a government lawyer for involvement in the interrogation memos [JURIST report], also released as the result of a FOIA request by the ACLU. Last month, a number of organizations called for the drafters of the memos to be disbarred [JURIST report]. Also in May, former JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen told [JURIST report] an audience at the University of Nebraska College of Law [academic website] that the lawyers from the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] who had authorized the use of enhanced interrogation techniques had "disgraced not only their country but their profession." In April, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile; JURIST news archive], Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] renewed his call [JURIST report] for the formation of a non-partisan "truth commission" to investigate torture allegations. Also in April, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official profile, DOC] insisted that under international law the US must prosecute [JURIST report] DOJ lawyers who drafted the memos. President Barack Obama has said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript; JURIST report] lawyers who authored the memos.

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