The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] on Tuesday declassified [press release] 50 documents related to its detention and Interrogation program pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request. This several hundred-page release [FOIA archive] covers internal CIA documents as well as other documents that were cited in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] report on the program. The files expose details [NYT report] about the agency’s treatment of terrorism suspects after the 9/11 attacks. One account included a detailed internal investigation in the interrogation and death of Gul Rahman, a militant suspected of ties to al Qaeda, who died at a CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002 after being doused with water and chained to a concrete floor as temperatures dropped below freezing. The files also include detailed descriptions of the inner workings of the CIA’s “black site” prisons, messages from field officers who expressed misgivings about the treatment of detainees, secret memos objecting to medical treatments later condemned as torture, and mistaken arrests of innocent civilians and subsequently attempted cover-ups. The documents also include memos filed by senior CIA officials defending the interrogation program as saving thousands of lives. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which filed the request for the documents, stated that these documents “underscore the cruelty of the methods used in its secret, overseas black sites.”
The use of torture as an interrogation technique has created many legal problems for the US government. Last April, a federal judge from the ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit [brief, PDF] against two former military psychologists who developed the CIA’s interrogation program under George W. Bush may proceed. In February Amnesty International USA [advocacy website] alleged [JURIST report] that Mustafa al-Hawsawi, one of the accused 9/11 ringleaders, was in desperate need of medical care in a letter to the Pentagon. In the letter the agency stated that Hawsawi was in severe rectal distress due to interrogation methods that amounted to torture and that he had yet to receive adequate medical care. In December Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [JURIST report] for the criminal prosecution of CIA and other US government officials for their participation in torture programs following the 9/11 terrorist attack. In August 2014 10 victims of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive] signed an open letter [JURIST report] to President Barack Obama urging him to declassify the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the program, which ultimately led to the release. JURIST Guest Columnist Benjamin G Davis of the University of Toledo College of Law recently discussed [JURIST op-ed] the barriers that survivors of torture face in obtaining redress through the US court system, which HRW hopes to eliminate.