by John Byrne for rawstory
The Central Intelligence Agency knew from the beginning that its secret detention and torturous interrogation tactics probably bordered on illegal from the start, according to new documents identified through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
In a filing yesterday, the CIA said it had identified 7,000 pages of classified memos, emails and other records relating to President Bush's secret detention and interrogation program. Human rights groups quickly jumped on the filing -- which came after their own Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about those detained.
The CIA also acknowledged in their filings that the program "will continue." Terror suspects detained or "renditioned" by the United States are transferred to third party countries that allow torture which gives the US a legal loophole to allow harsh interrogation without being legally liable. Such suspects, who effectively disappear, are held without access to courts.
The US has refused to produce a list of the suspects it is holding in sites overseas, and only recently provided a list of those held captive at Guantanamo Bay.
Amnesty International says at least 30 people are believed to still be held in secret prisons.
In 2006, President Bush muted dissent surrounding the program by announcing that he would transfer 14 "high-value" detainees to Guantбnamo Bay.
The filing also shows that the agency sought legal advice from the White House Office of Legal Counsel numerous times over several years.
"The CIA's purpose in requesting advice from OLC was the very likely prospect of criminal, civil, or administrative litigation against the CIA and CIA personnel who participate in the Program," Ralph S. DiMaio, information review officer for the CIA's clandestine service, said in the documents.
Such proceedings, he added, would "be virtually inevitable."
Nineteen documents were withheld; the Bush Administration cited "presidential communications privilege." The withholding of documents under presidential privlige has been a common practice of the Bush Administration -- but its decision to do so in this case appears a tacit acknowledgment of the high-level interaction between Bush advisors and CIA officials.
The filing says that some of the withheld documents were "authored or solicited and received by the President's senior advisors in connection with a decision, or potential decision, to be made by the president."
Rights groups say CIA is hiding criminal activity
Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law were the key litigants seeking the documents made the claim following a summary judgment motion by the agency.
"For the first time, the CIA has acknowledged that extensive records exist relating to its use of enforced disappearances and secret prisons," Curt Goering, AIUSA senior deputy executive director, said in a statement yesterday. "Given what we already know about documents written by Bush administration officials trying to justify torture and other human rights crimes, one does not need a fertile imagination to conclude that the real reason for refusing to disclose these documents has more to do with avoiding disclosure of criminal activity than national security."
RAW STORY was the first news outlet to identify the exact location of one of the sites in the CIA's secret prison network, which was revealed first by the Washington Post. Raw Story identified a prison in northeastern Poland, Stare Kiejkuty, that was used as a transit point for terror suspects.
Once a Soviet-era compound once used by German intelligence in World War II, Stare Kiejkuty is best known as having been the only Russian intelligence training school to operate outside the Soviet Union. Its prominence in the Soviet era suggests that it may have been the facility first identified – but never named – when the Washington Post’s Dana Priest revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prison network in November 2005.
The groups say that they're not the only ones being stonewalled. Congress, they say, is getting the short end of the stick as well.
"Documents released to plaintiffs by the CIA demonstrate that many within the government itself have been unable to obtain accurate information from the CIA," the groups said. "These documents, which include letters from Members of Congress to the CIA, demonstrate a pattern of withholding information from Congress. In a pointed bipartisan letter on Oct. 16, 2003, then-Chair and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence requested that CIA Director George Tenet provide senior level briefings on the treatment of, and information obtained by, three men known to be held in secret CIA detention, admonishing the CIA by stating that the committee was 'frustrated with the quality of the information' provided in past briefings."
"The CIA has employed illegal techniques such as torture, enforced disappearances, and extraordinary rendition," said Meg Satterthwaite, Director of the NYU IHRC. "It cannot use FOIA exemptions as a shield to hide its violations of U.S. and international law."
CIA has begun to lose, destroy documents
Two recent reports signal that the agency has begun to destroy evidence of harsh interrogations conducted at US prisons. Last year, the CIA acknowledged it had destroyed videotapes of two interrogations they were asked to provide to the Sept. 11 commission.
Earlier this week, the erstwhile director of interrogations at Guantбnamo Bay said records of a prisoner who accused his captors of torturing him had been destroyed.
"Retired general Michael Dunlavey, who supervised Guantanamo for eight months in 2002, tried to locate records on Mohammed al-Qahtani, accused by the US of plotting the 9/11 attacks, but found they had disappeared," the Guardian writes. "The records on al-Qahtani, who was interrogated for 48 days - "were backed up ... after I left, there was a snafu and all was lost."