Rights Groups Challenge CIA for Failure to Release More Than 7000 Documents Relating to Secret Detention, Rendition, and Torture

Groups Charge CIA with Covering up Improper Activity, Not Protecting National Security NEW YORK and WASHINGTON , June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) must no longer be allowed to use...

Groups Charge CIA with Covering up Improper Activity, Not Protecting National Security

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON , June 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) must no longer be allowed to use classification arguments in its attempts to prevent the disclosure of illegal or embarrassing conduct in its secret detention, torture, and rendition programs, three prominent human rights groups said today. The statement came just hours after they collectively filed a motion to require the CIA to make certain information public and to provide more details about all the documents withheld.

The groups -- Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law (NYU IHRC) -- filed the motion on the evening of June 25th, 2008 in the Southern District of New York , where the case is being heard. The lawsuit was filed in June 2007 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), after repeated attempts to obtain information from the CIA had failed.

"Our government cannot just 'disappear' people and on top of that, not be forced to account for its actions. That is the stuff of the most brutal dictatorships and it should not be the legacy that this country creates," said CCR Staff Attorney Emi MacLean . "Moreover, the CIA's claim that legal advice sought on torture techniques is covered by privilege is a perversion of the law: there is no privilege that covers illegal activity."

The filing came in opposition to a CIA motion for summary judgment to end a FOIA lawsuit filed in federal court last June and avoid turning over more than 7000 documents related to its secret "ghost" detention and extraordinary rendition programs. The groups argue that the CIA has not provided enough information to the court to justify keeping thousands of records secret and the suit must be allowed to go forward. They also allege that the agency has at times selectively disclosed some of the information for political gain and seeks to keep secret even information that President Bush and CIA Director General Hayden have already made public.

In its motion for summary judgment, the CIA claimed that it did not have to release the documents because many involve the President or the DOJ or CIA lawyers who oversaw the program. The CIA confirmed that it requested - and received - legal advice from attorneys at the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel concerning various interrogation techniques. This latest brief argues that there is no privilege covering illegal activities.

The filing is accompanied by a comprehensive account of what is known to date about the U.S. rendition, secret detention, and interrogation program, in the form of a 78-page declaration by IHRC's Margaret Satterthwaite . The declaration - which also contains several hundred pages of exhibits - details government statements and publicly available information collected about the CIA's program, providing a coherent picture of how much has already been made public about the program and precisely how it operates.

"Our declaration shows how systematic, widespread, and well-orchestrated the CIA's program of torture, enforced disappearances, and extraordinary renditions really is," said Margaret Satterthwaite , Director of the NYU IHRC. "The CIA must be held to account by being forced to disclose vital information to the American people, who have a right to know about illegal techniques like torture and rendition being used in their name by the U.S. government."

AIUSA, CCR, and NYU IHRC filed FOIA requests with several U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, seeking information about the government program of secret or irregular detention.

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