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Documents Reveal Threats To Government Agents Who Saw Detainee Abuse In Iraq

Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union reveal that a special operations task force in Iraq sought to silence Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who observed abusive interrogations and that the Department of Defense adopted questionable interrogation techniques at Guantanamo over FBI objections.

“The more the government is forced to reveal, the more we learn that individuals in U.S. custody, many of whom have not been accused of wrongdoing, were tortured and abused,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “These documents tell a damning story of sanctioned government abuse — a story that the government has tried to hide and may well come back to haunt our own troops captured in Iraq.”

The release of these documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The NYCLU is co-counsel in the case.

The documents the ACLU released today, posted online at, include:

  • A June 25, 2004 memo from Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Defense Intelligence Agency chief, entitled “alleged detainee abuse by TF 62-6,” describing how DIA personnel who complained about abuses were threatened, had their car keys confiscated and e-mails monitored, and were ordered “not to talk to anyone in the U.S.” or leave the base “even to get a haircut.”
  • The June 25 memo also describes how the task force’s officers punched a prisoner in the face “to the point he needed medical attention,” failed to record the medical treatment, and confiscated DIA photos of the injuries. The date of the incident is unclear.
  • FBI emails showing a rift between the Department of Defense and the FBI on the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. One email notes that Major General Miller “continued to support interrogation strategies [the FBI] not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness.” Another e-mail to Thomas Harrington, an FBI counterterrorism expert who led a team of investigators to Guantanamo, records “somewhat heated” conversations with Pentagon officials in which they admitted that DOD’s harsh interrogation methods did not yield any information not obtained by the FBI. A December 2003 e-mail notes that the FBI’s Military Liaison and Detainee Unit (MLDU), which “had a long standing and documented position against use of some of DOD’s interrogation practices,” had requested certain information “be documented to protect the FBI.”
  • Notes describing 15 interviews of FBI personnel who were at Abu Ghraib prison between Oct.-Dec. 2003, some of whom observed nudity, sleep deprivation and humiliation of detainees. A summary of these interviews was previously released.
  • E-mail from an FBI Behavioral Analysis Advisor who observed “aggressive” and “extreme interrogation practices” at GTMO,” noting that he and his colleagues had summarized these observations in communications between October and May of 2002.

These and other documents were released by the ACLU one day after the Associated Press reported on a detailed letter from FBI counter-terrorism expert Thomas Harrington to Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder describing “highly aggressive” interrogations and mistreatment of terror suspects at Guantanamo as far back as 2002. The AP also reported on the Harrington e-mail indicating a rift between DOD and the FBI over interrogation methods.

“We are concerned that the government is still withholding documents that could reveal which high-ranking officials are responsible for detainee abuse,” said Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director for the NYCLU and co-counsel.

The disclosures come in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the NYCLU and other civil liberties and human rights organizations after the Defense Department and other federal agencies failed to release records in response to FOIA requests. The requests sought records concerning the interrogation and treatment of detainees and the extrajudicial “rendition” of detainees to countries known to use torture.

The ACLU and NYCLU is continuing to press the government to disclose more documents and will return to court if necessary to ensure that every relevant document is released.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace.

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur M. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of CCR.

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