SCOTUS balks at CIA torture report release request

SCOTUS balks at CIA torture report release request
The US Supreme Court has turned down an appeals request from the American Civil Liberties Union seeking to force the CIA to release the full 2014 Senate report about the agency’s use of torture tactics.

In rejecting the appeal, the justices let stand a May 2016 ruling by the DC Circuit court, which held the 6,900-page report prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee was not subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

There was no comment from the Supreme Court on ACLU, ET AL V. CIA just its listing under "Certiorari Denied."

“We are disappointed by this major setback for government transparency and accountability. The full report is the definitive account of one of the darkest chapters in our nation’s history, and the public has a right to see it,” Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Security Project, said in a statement.

“Even though the full report is still secret, government agencies have copies and must use them to ensure that a program on inhuman and unlawful cruelty never happens again.”

The ACLU’s petition for review by the Supreme Court argued the report is an executive branch document since several government agencies obtained it in the course of their official duties.

The ruling comes following an FOIA request filed by the ACLU in 2013, demanding the release of the Senate Report which followed a comprehensive investigation into the CIA’s post 9-11 program of detention, torture and other abuses of detainees.

In December 2014, at the request of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Obama administration released the 524-page executive summary, but the full 6,000-plus page report remains classified. Full reports were sent to several executive branch agencies, including the Department of Justice, Defense and State, as well as the CIA itself.

The executive summary concluded that the torture used in ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against foreign prisoners in covert, overseas prisons was largely ineffective.

Among major findings was that Gul Rahman, an alleged Afghan militant held for just a month, froze to death while being detained at a CIA-run prison north of Kabul. Rahman had been stripped naked except for a sweatshirt, and was “shackled to the wall of his cell in a position that required the detainee to rest on the bare concrete floor.”

At least five CIA detainees were subjected to “rectal rehydration,” or rectal feeding, which was used to keep prisoners alive who allegedly refused to eat. According to the committee’s findings, however, investigators failed to discover any “documented medical necessity” for doing so.

What the Senate did discover, though, was that the CIA’s chief of interrogations at the COBALT family characterized the tactic as being among the methods used to exhibit the agents’ “total control” over detainees.

Other techniques included sleep deprivation.

“Sleep deprivation involved keeping detainees awake for up to 180 hours, usually standing or in stress positions at times with their hands shackled above their heads,” the Senate report reads in part.

“At least five detainees experienced disturbing hallucinations during prolonged sleep deprivation and, in at least two of those cases, the CIA nonetheless continued the sleep deprivation.”

In one instance, the CIA subjected a detainee, Abu Hudhaifa, to “ice water baths and 66 hours of standing sleep deprivation,” then released him because it was realized that, according to the report, “he was likely not the person he was believed to be.”

Other techniques were threats to family, prolonged standing, and waterboarding.

“The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting,” the Senate panel found. In the case of Abu Zubaydah, for instance, the terrorism suspect become “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth,” when interrogators tried to give the inmate the impression that he was drowning to death. Despite nearly killing Zubaydah, the Senate probe found that the event “was referenced in emails, but not documented or otherwise noted in CIA cables.”

In 2014, a federal district court dismissed the case, finding the full torture report is a congressional record, and therefore not subject to the FOIA, which applies only to executive branch documents. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision in May 2016.

The full report took several years to complete and is based on the review of millions of pages of CIA and other records.