ACLU Sues CIA to Find Body of Man Agency Tortured to Death

CC BY 2.0 / Justin Norman / The CIA’s “Torture Report” has received much heated criticism, both from human rights activists and from apologists more concerned with national security.
The CIA’s “Torture Report” has received much heated criticism, both from human rights activists and from apologists more concerned with national security. - Sputnik International
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The ACLU filed two lawsuits on Thursday against the Central Intelligence Agency to gain more information on the agency’s torture program.

The lawsuits were filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The first lawsuit seeks answers in the case of Gul Rahman, a suspected Afghan militant who was tortured to death by the CIA in November 2002. The ACLU wants to help his family discover what became of his body.

The second lawsuit seeks information regarding the confirmation of CIA Director Gina Haspel.

"To date, the CIA has told" Rahman's family "nothing, and his daughter cannot even give her father a decent burial," the ACLU said in a statement.

The CIA has "desperately tried to cover up its crimes," the ACLU says of the agency's handling of inquiries into its torture practices. The statement says that the CIA had already planned to hide its activities when it tortured its "very first prisoner," Abu Zubaydah. 

A detainee is escorted to interrogation by U.S. military guards at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay. - Sputnik International
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The rights group cites a 2002 cable that dictates that if Zubaydah dies while being tortured, his body should be cremated, effectively eliminating evidence. Still, the agency's torturers were cautious, demanding to headquarters that they be given "reasonable assurances" that the prisoner "will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life."

Langley agreed that Zubaydah "will never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others." Zubaydah is still held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

When victims of CIA torture sued, the agency tried to convince the federal court that they couldn't even entertain the claims of the plaintiffs, because doing so would reveal "state secrets."

"Unfortunately, judges largely gave in to these tactics. As a result, our courts were diminished in their vital role as a check on executive power and a means of accountability," the ACLU says.

Meanwhile, Haspel, who oversaw torture at a CIA blacksite in Thailand, was confirmed to the position of CIA director in May. The same month that Gul Rahman was being tortured to death, Haspel was overseeing the torture of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

"To date, the CIA has told the American public nothing about Haspel's role in the agency's torture program," the ACLU says, adding that an "unprecedented propaganda campaign" was waged on her behalf in order to get her through the Senate nomination process.

"If it appears CIA is being more robust than normal in supporting this nomination, that's because we are," CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told the New York Times in May.

Now, as director of the agency, Haspel "is effectively in control of whether her own record of torture remains secret," the ACLU says. 

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Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) wrote a "fifth time" to request declassification of Haspel's background back in April. Haspel was deputy director of the CIA between February 2017 and May 2018, but was acting director during her confirmation process.

"Under the ‘Get to Know our Deputy Director,' the CIA issued a press release that included a superficial narrative about Ms. Haspel without providing the public any information about her 33-year career at the CIA," the senators wrote, calling the propaganda campaign by former CIA officials and "anonymous ‘current and former intelligence officials'" a "great disservice to the American people."

Now, the ACLU is demanding CIA documents detailing the propaganda campaign.

"The common thread linking the continued suffering of Rahman's family and the CIA's efforts to whitewash Haspel's history is the agency's use of extreme secrecy to avoid accountability for its shameful and illegal torture program," the group says.

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