ACLU Dislodges Torture Report

A lawsuit filed in 2003 by the ACLU has changed the conversation in Washington about government misconduct in interrogations of terrorism suspects.

On Monday, the partially declassified CIA report sought by the ACLU was released, by court order. The report brought new allegations of misconduct by interrogators — and possible criminal charges, if a new review finds them warranted.
Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a “preliminary review” to see if crimes might have been committed — although it was unclear what exactly such a review would accomplish that hasn’t already been done.

The report’s release was front-page, top-of-the-hour news across the nation. To get a sense of the stories, and the ACLU’s critical role in forcing release of the report, a sampling of news reports is below. Links take you to the full story, if you’d like to read further.

To read the CIA report, go to the national ACLU’s Web site .

CIA Report Calls Oversight Of Early Interrogations Poor . (Washington Post 8/25)
By Peter Finn, Joby Warrick and Julie Tate
A partially declassified CIA report released Monday by the Obama administration describes the early implementation of the agency`s interrogation program in 2002 and 2003 as ad hoc and poorly supervised, leading to the use of “unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented” techniques…The Obama administration was forced to release the CIA documents because of a wide-ranging Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union filed in 2003. “The report underscores the need for a comprehensive criminal investigation that reaches not just the interrogators who exceeded authority but the senior officials who authorized torture and the Justice Department lawyers who facilitated it,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the organization’s national security program.

ACLU: Holder Should `Go Ahead And Prosecute` . (NPR 8/25)
By Peter Overby
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says a Justice Department prosecutor will conduct a “preliminary review” of possible criminal cases stemming from CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists. The American Civil Liberties Union has been pushing for such an investigation. It`s waged a five-year legal battle to uncover misconduct in the name of national security. The ACLU says Holder doesn`t need to do the preliminary review — he should just go ahead and prosecute. “It seems as if he`s appeasing the political interests in Washington, not to take this full bore,” says Anthony Romero, the ACLU`s executive director. “Frankly, what further proof do we need that the laws were violated?” It`s that kind of language that inflames Republicans on Capitol Hill. Back in April, Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) accused President Obama of kowtowing to the ACLU: “It`s up to the president to choose our terror fighters over terrorists, to choose troops over ACLU lawyers, to choose national security over politics.” The ACLU has made its reputation on infuriating politicians — usually conservatives, but sometimes liberals. Romero took the reins at the ACLU a week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since then, the issues of detention, surveillance, transparency and torture have dominated the group`s agenda. Nearly 40 lawyers and other professionals have been added to the budget. Laura Murphy was head of the ACLU`s Washington office in 2001. She remembers polls showing many Americans ready to give up civil liberties to stay safe…Now the rights groups have a web of alliances — coordinating strategies, and writing supporting briefs for lawsuits against the government. The ACLU works with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, assisting military attorneys who defend detainees at Guantanamo. And in June 2004, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to get documents on American detention and interrogation of prisoners overseas. That led to a steady drip of revelations, including the CIA inspector general`s report from 2004. The report reveals threats against detainees and other possible violations of U.S. law. But ACLU head Romero says the Obama administration has to confront the legacy of the anti-terrorism policies, how they were formulated and how they were carried out. “What`s clear is this is not going away. Romero says. “And the Obama administration really is rather fool-hardy in thinking that perhaps by deferring it, or by taking its sweet old time and having a preliminary investigation, they really are putting their head in the sand.” Among the battles yet to come: The ACLU and others want to shut down the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They also want disclosure of photos depicting interrogation practices in Iraq.

CIA report spurs review of interrogations. (USA Today 8/25)
By Peter Eisler
Revelations that U.S. interrogators threatened terror suspects with handguns and an electric drill prompted Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday to reassess whether it may be necessary to launch criminal prosecutions in some detainee abuse cases… The new records were released in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The release came as the Obama administration wrestles with the legacy of the Bush administration`s approval and use of interrogation techniques that President Obama has called torture…Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham will lead the review of potential criminal charges, Holder said. Durham led last year`s Justice review of the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations, including sessions involving waterboarding, which simulates drowning. “Rogue interrogators” and Bush administration officials “who authorized torture or wrote the memos that were used to justify it” should be prosecuted, the ACLU said.

Holder opens investigation into CIA interrogations. (LA Times 8/25)
By Josh Meyer and Greg Miller
The Obama administration Monday set the country on a course to confront whether actions taken in the name of defending Americans instead crossed criminal lines…The report was issued in 2004. Officials within the Justice Department at the time reviewed the document and opted to keep it secret. The report became available to the public, at least in part, for the first time Monday as the result of an ACLU lawsuit. The document includes new disclosures on how top Al Qaeda prisoners were told that their families faced harm if they didn`t cooperate.

U.S. probes `inhumane` CIA tactics under Bush. (Toronto Star 8/25)
By Mitch Potter
After months of urging Americans to put the controversial handling of terror suspects behind them, President Barack Obama signalled yesterday his government will investigate the abuse of detainees under the Bush administration…The American Civil Liberties Union, which has waged a long-running court battle for disclosure of Bush-era CIA documents, including those released yesterday, welcomed the Justice Department inquiry but urged that its mandate be broadened to include senior officials “who authorized torture or wrote the memos that were used to justify it…”An investigation that begins and ends with so-called `rogue` interrogators would be indefensible given the evidence of high-level involvement that is already in the public domain,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU`s National Security Project…The CIA documents, which by court order were less redacted than an earlier version released after a legal battle with the ACLU, also said agents threatened to kill the children of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed during interrogations following his capture in March 2003.

Special prosecutor named to probe CIA interrogations. (McClatchy 8/25)
Despite President Barack Obama`s desire to avoid revisiting Bush-era interrogations, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor Monday to determine whether CIA officials or contractors should be criminally investigated for the alleged torture of terrorism detainees…”Collectively, these documents shed a great deal of light on the scope and the nature of the CIA`s torture program and underscore the need for a comprehensive investigation,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union`s National Security Program.

AG looking at prisoner abuse. (NBC 14 8/24)
By Sarah Harlan
Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a federal prosecutor to examine alleged prisoner abuse by the C.I.A. as the Bush administration was ramping up its war on terror…The announcement came as the justice department was forced to release internal C.I.A. documents as the result of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union…”The torture of prisoners wasn`t the result of rogue interrogators,” Jameel Jaffer with the American Civil Liberties Union said. “It was the result of a program that was authorized from the very top, that was thought through by the senior-most Bush administration officials.”

CIA Threatened To Kill Suspect`s Children. (CBS News 8/24)
A newly declassified CIA report says interrogators threatened to kill the children of a Sept. 11 suspect. The document, released Monday by the Justice Department, says one interrogator said a colleague had told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that if any other attacks happened in the United States, “We`re going to kill your children.”…
“They really do show an agency that in some respects is completely out of control. And out of control by design,” ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer told Orr.

Holder to Appoint Special Prosecutor, Will it Be Enough?. (Daily Kos 8/24)
By mcjoan
Along with the release today of extremely damaging CIA documents related to the Bush torture regime, attorney general Holder has announced appointment of a special prosecutor to narrowly investigate torture…Word of Holder`s decision comes on the same day that the Obama administration will issue a 2004 report by the then-CIA Inspector General. Among other things, the IG questioned the effectiveness of harsh interrogation tactics that included simulated drowning and wall slamming. A federal judge in New York forced the administration to release the secret report after a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

US justice department to investigate CIA over interrogation methods. (Guardian UK 8/24)
By Ewen MacAskill
The US attorney general, Eric Holder, is poised to order a special criminal investigation into CIA agents who may have gone too far in the interrogation of al-Qaida and other suspects taken after the 9/11 attacks, it emerged today…The reports are the subject of a long-running freedom of information battle between the CIA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). A copy was published last year, while George Bush was in power, but almost the entire contents were blacked out. Obama promised earlier this year to release as much as possible…Jameel Jaffer, a spokesman for the ACLU, said: “It is encouraging that the justice department`s ethics office recognises that prior decisions to cut off investigations of serious abuse cases were ill-advised, and that those who broke the law must be held accountable.”

Prosecutor to probe CIA torture allegations . (Scotsman 8/24)
By Chris Stephen
The United States has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate allegations of CIA torture of prisoners after a new report painted a devastating picture of torture of al-Qaeda suspects…But with a second Inspector General report, covering abuses at Guantanamo, due for release after a separate court ruling on August 31, the ACLU says a wider investigation is now needed…”President Obama made a commitment to transparency and accountability, and it`s time for his administration to make good on that promise,” said ACLU spokesman Amrit Singh.

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