ACLU sues State Department for failure to disclose 'war on terror' documents

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] on Thursday filed [press release] a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] for failing to disclose information about the government's "War on Terror" efforts, even though Wikileaks [website] has already released the desired documents. The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 USC § 552; JURIST news archive] request [text, PDF] for 23 embassy cables, to which the government has yet to respond. The embassy cables contain information about diplomatic responses to US abduction, interrogation, detention and rendition practices and President Obama's decision to withhold photographs of US interrogations, as well as information about the prosecution and release of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees and use of unmanned aerial vehicles. The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel [media websites] published articles in November 2010 based on documents alleged to be the embassy cables, which were released by Wikileaks. ACLU demanded that the documents be released by the government agency as a matter of public interest and increased understanding of government operations and activities. The ACLU National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner condemned the government's conduct:

Our current secrecy regime has become completely untethered from reality. The government's insistence that information published throughout the world remains 'classified' is not only ridiculous—it's a legal fiction that has permitted government officials to evade liability for illegal conduct. All too often, the government has employed secrecy not to protect the nation from harm, but to protect the powerful from embarrassment and accountability.
The ACLU is seeking immediate release of the requested documents.

In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that the US government does not have to release [JURIST report] non-redacted transcripts requested by the ACLU relating to the interrogation of certain "high value" detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The ACLU chastised the Obama administration [JURIST report] in June 2010 for shielding Bush administration officials from civil suit and criminal prosecution in relation to the treatment of detainees in US custody. That same month, the ACLU highlighted formerly classified torture-related documents in honor of Torture Awareness Month [official website]. In April 2010, another ACLU FOIA suit resulted in the release [JURIST report] of internal Central Intelligence Agency [official website] documents [part 1, PDF; part 2, PDF; part 3, PDF] revealing that a former agency head may have agreed to the destruction of videotapes [JURIST news archive] showing harsh interrogations of terror suspects.

 

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