There are now about 375 terrorism suspects being held at Guantanamo.

Washington, DC. 26 July (Asiantribune.com): The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) July 24 obtained three redacted documents related to the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation policies, including a previously withheld Justice Department memo authorizing the CIA’s use of torture.

The government was ordered to turn over the documents in response to an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought in 2004 by the ACLU and other organizations seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.

“These documents supply further evidence, if any were needed, that the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture prisoners in its custody,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes.”

One of the documents obtained by the ACLU is a redacted version of a previously undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion from August 2002 that authorizes the CIA to use specific interrogation methods, including waterboarding. The memo states that interrogation methods that cause severe mental pain do not amount to torture under U.S. law unless they cause “harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoners.” Initially, the CIA took the position that it could not confirm or deny the existence of this memo; it dropped that position after President Bush disclosed in September 2006 that the CIA had been operating detention centers overseas.

The other two documents, from 2003 and 2004, are memos from the CIA related to requests for legal advice from the Justice Department. The 2003 memo shows that CIA interrogators were authorized by OLC to use torture practices known as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The memo also indicates that, for each session in which these techniques were used, the CIA documented, among other things, “the nature and duration of each such technique employed” and “the identities of those present.” The documentation relating to the CIA’s torture sessions, including the names of agents who participated, is still being withheld.

The 2004 memo shows that CIA interrogators were told that the Justice Department had concluded that certain interrogation techniques, including “the waterboard,” did not constitute torture. The document also indicates that, after the Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that courts can decide whether foreign nationals held in Guantánamo Bay US facility in Cuba were rightfully imprisoned, CIA interrogators were told to take into account the possibility their actions would ultimately be subject to judicial review.

“While the documents released on July 24 do provide more information about the development and implementation of the Bush administration’s torture policies, even a cursory glance at the documents shows that the administration continues to use ‘national security’ as a shield to protect government officials from embarrassment, criticism and possible criminal prosecution,” said Jaffer. “Far too much information is still being withheld.”

In May, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York overruled some of the CIA’s claims that the documents released on July 24 were exempt from disclosure under the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit. The judge is still considering the ACLU’s motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying hundreds of hours of videotape depicting the abusive interrogations of two detainees in its custody.

Memo Dated January 28, 2003, from CIA to OLC contains “communications from the CIA to OLC on a matter in which the CIA requested legal advice from OLC” and shows that CIA interrogators were permitted to use both “Standard Techniques” and “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” and that in each CIA interrogation session in which an Enhanced Technique was employed, a “contemporaneous record” was created setting forth, among other things, “the nature and duration of each such technique employed” and “the identities of those present.”

Memo Dated August 4, 2004, from CIA to OLC contains “communications from the CIA to OLC on a matter in which the CIA requested legal advice from OLC” and shows that CIA interrogators were told that the Justice Department had concluded that certain interrogation techniques, “including the waterboard,” did not violate the torture statute. The document also indicates that CIA interrogators were told to take into account the possibility that their actions would ultimately be subject to judicial review.

Memo Dated August 1, 2002, from OLC to CIA Memo “advising the CIA regarding interrogation methods it may use against al Qaeda members,” and includes information “regarding potential interrogation methods and the context in which their use was contemplated.” The document also discusses “alternative interrogation methods,” a phrase that was echoed by President Bush in a September 2006 speech promoting the Military Commissions Act. Though heavily redacted, the document shows that the Justice Department authorized alternative interrogation methods after concluding that “those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe physical pain or suffering” or “to cause severe mental pain or suffering.” The memo explains: “Prolonged mental harm is substantial mental harm of sustained duration, e.g. harm lasting months or even years after the acts were inflicted upon the prisoner.” The memo also includes this sentence: “Your review of the literature uncovered no empirical data on the use of these procedures, with the exception [redacted].” The memo is signed by Jay Bybee, who also signed the “organ failure” memo issued to the CIA the same day, and who is now a federal appellate judge.

Source :- Asian Tribune –

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