May 14, 2008, New York – The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained previously withheld documents from the Defense Department, including internal investigations into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. Uncensored documents released as a result of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit shed light on the deaths of detainees in Iraq and internal disagreement within the military over harsh interrogation practices used at Guantánamo Bay. Veterans for Common Sense is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“These documents provide further evidence that the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational, but was widespread and systemic,” said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU. “They only underscore the need for an independent investigation into high-level responsibility for prisoner abuse.”
One of the documents released to the ACLU is a list of at least four prisoner deaths that were the subject of Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) investigations. The NCIS document contains new information about the deaths of some of these prisoners, including details about Farhad Mohamed, who had contusions under his eyes and the bottom of his chin, a swollen nose, cuts and large bumps on his forehead when he died in Mosul in 2004. The document also includes details about Naem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old Iraqi man who was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility in Nasiriyah in June 2003; the shooting death of Hemdan El Gashame in Nasiriyah in March 2003; and the death of Manadel Jamadi during an interrogation after his head was beaten with a stove at Abu Ghraib in November 2003.
Another document obtained by the ACLU provides further context to objections raised by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) about the use of harsh interrogation methods applied on Guantánamo prisoners. The memo prepared for CITF commander Brittain Mallow appears to have been drafted for September 2002, and identifies “unacceptable methods” involving “threats,” “discomfort,” and “sensory deprivation,” while also providing guidance to CITF agents on permissible interrogation methods for use on detainees. The memo suggests that CITF expressed disapproval of abusive methods used at Guantánamo as far back as September 2002. In December 2002, Mallow instructed his unit not to participate in “any questionable” interrogation techniques at the facility.
ACLU have also obtained a Defense Department criminal investigation file, Justice Department emails, State Department cables, and a Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedure.
In October 2003, the ACLU and 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 subsequent FOIA lawsuit. The previously withheld documents are available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/35271res20080514.html
In addition, many of the FOIA documents are also collected and analyzed in a recently published book by ACLU attorneys Jameel Jaffer and Singh, “Administration of Torture.” More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture
The documents received in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation are online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
Attorneys in the FOIA case are Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, P.C.; Jaffer, Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.