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CIA documents detail controversial interrogation practices

[JURIST] The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] conducted overseas interrogations that included sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and physical abuse, according to documents [ACLU materials; page 2] made available earlier this week. The letters and memoranda, originally sent to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel [official website], were released Monday pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act suit [materials] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy websites]. One of the documents provides an account of the detention, interrogation, and rendition process from beginning to end, including descriptions of sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, and forced nudity. A memo [text, PDF] sent to CIA general counsel John Rizzo describes interrogation techniques used in "covert overseas facilities" that include head shaving, facial slaps and holds, white noise, 24-hour lighting in cells, and dietary manipulation. The memo analyzed the legality of such techniques and claimed that the "enhanced interrogation" procedures were critical to the CIA and a "key reason why al-Qaida has failed to launch a spectacular attack" in the US since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The ACLU alleges [press release] that the use of such techniques violates the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [text], which prohibits such conduct.

Enhanced interrogation techniques and legal memoranda justifying their use have lately been the subject of intensified controversy. On Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] that the DOJ will "open a preliminary review" [JURIST report] into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. Last month, a former CIA counter-terrorism agent reported that waterboarding techniques were used prior to the issuance of legal memos that authorized the practice [JURIST reports]. Also in July, former DOJ lawyer John Yoo and memo author declared his intent to appeal a ruling that allowed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] against him for complicity in torture. The suit claims that Yoo's legal opinions endorsing certain interrogation techniques led to torture. A number of organizations have called for the drafters of the memos to be disbarred [JURIST report]. In April, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak insisted that, under international law, the US must prosecute [JURIST report] the DOJ lawyers who drafted the memos. US President Barack Obama has said that he would not rule out [JURIST report] the possibility of prosecution.

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