Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw), Guest Blogger
Earlier this week I read on the ACLU website the Appellate Court decision in ACLU, et al v. Department of Defense, et al, which decided you and I are not entitled to learn how our government tortured detainees illegally. “A federal appeals court today ruled that the government can continue suppressing transcripts in which former CIA prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture they suffered in CIA custody. The ruling came in an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain uncensored transcripts from Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) used to determine if Guantánamo detainees qualify as ”enemy combatants.” http://www.aclu.org/national-security/court-rules-government-can-continue-suppress-detainee-statements-describing-tort-0 It didn’t surprise me that the ACLU lost this appeal, but what surprised me is the lack of attention this case got in the main stream media.
This decision is a stark example of just how weak the Freedom of Information Act really is. At least in the eyes of the Courts when the Government presents its proverbial “get out jail free card” by arguing that the documents that were withheld or heavily redacted, fell under an exemption of the FOIA due to national security and intelligence gathering needs. It is important to note here that the documents that the ACLU was asking for were the transcripts of the detainees’ own statements detailing just how they claim they were tortured. As the ACLU attorney, Ben Wizner, put it, “The notion that the CIA can classify torture victims’ descriptions of their own first-hand experiences is dangerous and far-reaching,” said Wizner. “No court has ever held that unconfirmed allegations offered by detainees concerning the treatment to which they themselves were subjected could be classified and suppressed.” http://www.aclu.org/national-security/court-rules-government-can-continue-suppress-detainee-statements-describing-tort-0 The gist of the Government’s claim is that even though these detainees’ allegations of torture are not proven, they are too dangerous to our National Security to disclose just what those allegations are! Am I the only one that thinks that by arguing the national security exemption here that the Government is admitting the truth of these detainee’s allegations?
Isn’t it time for the Freedom of Information Act to actually provide us the freedom to see what our government is doing under our names? When the Courts grant the government the broad leeway under the label of “national security”, how are crimes that were committed by the government supposed to be uncovered and prosecuted?
Lawrence Rafferty, (rafflaw), Guest Blogger