Judicial Watch Obtains Documents Regarding Congressional CIA “Torture Briefings”
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has received the first batch of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) regarding congressional "Torture Briefings." The CIA produced the documents pursuant to a previous court order in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency, Case: 1:09-cv-01352). The court order stipulates that documents pertaining to congressional briefings on "enhanced interrogation techniques" must be provided to Judicial Watch by April 15. Additional documents are forthcoming.
According to the documents, previously marked "Top Secret," between 2001 and 2007, the CIA briefed at least 68 members of Congress on the CIA interrogation program, including so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." The documents include the dates of all congressional briefings and, in some cases, the members of Congress in attendance and the specific subjects discussed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who previously denied she was briefed by the CIA on the use of these techniques, is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the "ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah." Zubaydah had been subjected to the enhanced interrogation techniques.
Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from former Vice President Cheney’s office in a separate lawsuit that detail the effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques." According to a June 1, 2005, CIA report entitled, Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al-Qa’ida, "Detainee reporting accounts for more than half of all HUMINT reporting on al-Qa’ida since the program began…" Interestingly, this fact was omitted in later versions of the report obtained by Judicial Watch. All versions, however, conclude: "One of the gains to detaining the additional terrorists has been the thwarting of a number of al-Qa’ida operations in the United States and overseas."
Despite the apparent effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques," the federal government suspended their use in 2005 by passing the Detainee Treatment Act. President Obama officially banned the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" during his first week in office in January 2009. Two months later, in March 2009, President Obama overruled objections from national security officials and released documents detailing the government’s enhanced interrogation program (the so-called "torture" memos). However, President Obama initially withheld information detailing the results of this program, including alleged terrorist plots that the program prevented.
Moreover, according to an April 2009 CNN report, President Obama’s Intelligence Director, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told colleagues in an April 16 memo on the subject of "enhanced interrogation techniques," that "High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country." This sentence was omitted from a version of the memo released by Blair’s office to the press.
"It is unfortunate that it took a federal court order to force the Obama administration to release these documents," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "These documents indicate that members of Congress approved of and were well aware of the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques and their lifesaving value. It is disturbing that we no longer use interrogation techniques that have demonstrably stopped terrorist attacks and saved American lives. The Obama administration has made this country less safe by its mishandling of the enhanced interrogation program."