ACLU sues for docs on CIA detention site

ACLU sues for docs on CIA detention site
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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on Thursday looking to obtain documents about federal prison officials’ visit to a CIA detention site where people were subjected to brutal interrogation techniques.

The Bureau of Prisons has previously declined to provide information about the November 2002 visit to the Afghan site, known as “the Salt Pit,” or Cobalt.

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But details about the trip were contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s contentious 2014 report outlining the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation regime. The harsh interrogation methods, which included waterboarding and “rectal rehydration,” have been widely condemned as torture.

According to an executive summary of the Senate report, federal prison officials were “wow’ed” at the site, because “they have never been in a facility where individuals are so sensory deprived.”

A top CIA interrogator called the site “the closest thing he has seen to a dungeon,” according to the Senate’s report. Another said that the detention facility in and of itself ought to be characterized as an enhanced interrogation technique.

A CIA officer relaying comments from a meeting after the Bureau of Prison officials’ visit said that they believed “the detainees were not being treated inhumanely.”

The ACLU filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) shortly after the Senate panel’s report was issued, in late 2014. Last April, the Justice Department responded that it did not have any documents on the trip. The Obama administration denied an appeal last September.

On Thursday, the group went to court to challenge the claim.

“Anyone who has traveled for work would agree that this is difficult to pull off without a paper trail,” said Carl Takei, an ACLU staff attorney, in a statement. “Yet that’s what the Bureau of Prisons would have us believe.

“This trip has been documented by the United States Senate. It’s time to come clean.”

More than one detainee was subjected to brutal interrogation techniques while at the “Salt Pit” site, which was in operation from 2002 to 2004.

One man, Gul Rahman, died while in custody at the facility, due to suspected hypothermia. According to the Senate report, he had been shackled to the wall and was naked except for a sweatshirt, exposing him to the cold concrete floor. He had previously been forced to stay awake for 48 hours straight and was subjected to “rough treatment” and “auditory overload.”

Another detainee, suspected former Osama bin Laden bodyguard Redha al-Najar, was subjected to isolation in total darkness, “stress positions” and loud music 24 hours a day.

The case on Thursday was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.