In response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, the CIA has finally acknowledged the existence of a presidential order authorizing the agency to detain and interrogate terror suspects overseas.
“For more than two years, the CIA had refused to either deny or confirm the existence of the documents and had argued in court that doing so could jeopardize national security,” the ACLU notes in a press release received by RAW STORY.
Along with a memorandum written by President Bush to the agency’s director, the CIA also referred to a Justice Department legal analysis sent to the CIA’s general counsel which specified interrogation methods which could be used against top Al-Qaeda members.
However, the CIA wouldn’t release either of the documents.
“The documents are withheld in their entirety because there is no meaningful non-exempt information that can be reasonably segregated from the exempt information,” said the CIA letter signed by Associate General Counsel John L. McPherson (which can be read in full at this pdf link).
“The CIA’s sudden reversal on these secret directives is yet more evidence that the Bush administration is misusing claims of national security to avoid public scrutiny,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero stated in the press release. “Confusion about whether such a presidential order existed certainly led to the torture and abuse scandal that embarrassed America.”
Romeros argues that “with a new Congress and renewed subpoena power, we now need to look up the chain of command.”
The ACLU intends to keep pressing until both documents are released in full.
“If President Bush and the Justice Department authorized the CIA to torture its prisoners, the public has a right to know,” ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer stated.
Excerpts from ACLU press release: