ACLU renews calls for Bush-era detainee ‘torture’ investigation

ACLU renews calls for Bush-era detainee ‘torture’ investigation

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[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called [press release] on the Obama administration to stop shielding Bush administration officials from civil suit and criminal prosecution in relation to the treatment of detainees in US custody. The organization warned that to do otherwise would only further impunity and cause "irreparable damage to the rule of law," imploring the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to expand the scope of its criminal investigation into the alleged mistreatment of detainees. According to the ACLU, the Obama administration:

continues to withhold from the public key documents relating to the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation program; has urged courts not to allow torture victims to bring claims under the Constitution; and has invoked the "state secrets" privilege to shield Bush administration officials from civil liability. An ongoing investigation of the torture program initiated by the Justice Department in August 2009 excludes top-level officials.

The ACLU will also be highlighting formerly classified torture-related documents throughout the month of June in honor of Torture Awareness Month [official website]. The documents will be posted on the Torture Report [advocacy website] with the stated intention of compiling the information gained from documents uncovered by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text], in order to achieve a greater understanding of detainee abuses that allegedly occurred during the administration of former president George W. Bush [official profile].

In April, another ACLU FOIA suit resulted in the release [JURIST report] of internal Central Intelligence Agency [official website] documents [part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] revealing that a former agency head may have agreed to the destruction of videotapes [JURIST news archive] showing harsh interrogations of terror suspects. Also in April, former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Adel Hassan Hamad [advocacy website; NYT backgrounder] filed suit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington [official website] against the US government and more than a dozen government officials. Hamad, a Sudanese aid worker captured in Pakistan in 2002, claims he was tortured during his time at Guantanamo Bay. In March, a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] denied [decision, PDF; JURIST report] a motion to dismiss a torture suit brought against former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] by two American citizens captured while working in Iraq. In August, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] named a special prosecutor [WP report] who has been tasked with investigating the alleged abuse of detainees and other terrorism suspects by CIA interrogators. The probe is limited to determining whether individuals went beyond authorized techniques when interrogating suspects.