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ACLU Demands Waterboarding Docs, CIA Claims FOIA Request Exemption

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last week that the court should require the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose records detailing waterboarding interrogation methods used against terrorism suspects in 2002, reports Reuters.

The CIA claims that the Agency can deny a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the waterboarding cables because waterboarding is an “intelligence method,” even though President Obama has since declared it illegal. The ACLU counters that the government cannot withhold details of an intelligence method that it has declared unlawful.

On Friday, the ACLU and the Department of Defense (DOD) asked the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in on the issue.

The ACLU originally sued the CIA in 2004 to uncover details of secret overseas prisons and interrogation methods. In 2007, the CIA admitted that it had destroyed recordings of two alleged al Qaeda members' interrogations in 2005, reports Reuters.

The court ordered the CIA to hand over any evidence that would assist the public in reconstructing the contents of the tapes. The CIA identified 580 documents that described the tapes' contents, but refused to release them based on the FOIA withholding exception, according to the ACLU.

FOIA provides an exemption for records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that would "disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions," or "could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara La Morte told the Second Circuit on Friday that waterboarding was an interrogation method used to gather intelligence, so documents about the technique are shielded from the ACLU's FOIA request, according to Reuters.

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