New York, NY – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today with the Departments of Justice and Defense for the release of a report on a long-running investigation of the FBI’s role in the unlawful interrogations of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched the investigation after internal government documents – uncovered by an ACLU lawsuit – revealed that FBI agents stationed at Guantánamo Bay expressed concern after witnessing military interrogators’ use of brutal interrogation techniques.
According to recent media reports, the OIG investigation has been completed for months. The Defense Department, however, has blocked the OIG from releasing it, claiming that the report still needs to be reviewed and redacted by the Pentagon.
“The Pentagon is using the classification review as a pretext to delay the release of a report that ought to have been released months ago,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “It’s increasingly clear that the report is being suppressed not for legitimate security reasons, but in order to protect high-level government officials from embarrassment, criticism, and possibly even criminal prosecution. The report should be released immediately.”
Inspector General Glenn Fine has stated that his report was finalized months ago. In the last few weeks, Fine has taken the unusual step of publicly criticizing the Defense Department for delaying the release of the report.
The OIG investigation was initiated in 2005 after the ACLU obtained documents in which FBI agents described interrogations that they had witnessed at Guantánamo Bay. The documents included:
• An e-mail in which FBI agents stated that Defense Department interrogators had impersonated FBI agents during an interrogation and used “torture techniques.” The email stated that the techniques were ineffective.
• An e-mail in which an FBI agent stated that “on a couple of occasions” he or she “entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water,” and that on one occasion he or she entered a cell to find that “the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”
• An e-mail that suggests that, although FBI agents began reporting abuse in 2002, the FBI did not initiate any comprehensive investigation of the abuse until after the Abu Ghraib photographs were published in 2004.
While the documents obtained by the ACLU were most notable for their description of illegal interrogation methods used by military interrogators, the documents also raised serious questions about the FBI’s participation in abusive interrogations, the actions of FBI personnel who witnessed abusive interrogations, and the response of FBI officials to reports of abuse. Today’s FOIA request seeking the OIG report itself as well as all documents related to the investigation is part of a broader ACLU effort to uncover information about the Bush administration’s torture policies.
In October 2003, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union – along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace – filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit enforcing the request – including the Bush administration’s 2003 “torture memo” written by John Yoo when he was a deputy at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.
A copy of today’s FOIA request is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/34956lgl20080422.html
The documents received in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation are online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia