Freedom of Information, CIA-Style


ACLU Blog of Rights
May 30, 2008

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After CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly admitted that the CIA has, in fact, waterboarded detainees, the agency could no longer cling to its last excuses for covering up the use of the very word “waterboarding” in CIA records. As a result, yesterday we obtained several heavily redacted documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other organizations seeking documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.

While the documents do, in fact, reveal the word “waterboarding” or some variation, they leave pretty much everything else to the imagination. The pages that haven’t been completely withheld (many of them contain the words “Denied in Full” instead of any actual content) have the clandestine blacked-out look that’s become a sort of trademark of this administration.

One of the documents is a heavily redacted version of a report (PDF) by the CIA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on its review of the CIA’s interrogation and detention program. The report includes information about an as-yet-undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion from August 2002. Interestingly, this opinion appears to be the same OLC memo authorizing specific interrogations methods for use by the CIA that is being withheld by the CIA as a classified document in the ACLU’s FOIA litigation — but the OIG report refers to this document as “unclassified.”

The CIA continues to withhold many more documents that should not be secret. The incomplete response to the ACLU’s demand for records reflects a complete disregard for the right of the American public to know when and how often the government has employed illegal interrogation methods.

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