A military judge has demanded that the CIA release its torture accounts after rejecting the U.S. government’s attempts to keep them secret.
The Guardian was given details of a currently sealed court ruling at Guantanamo Bay in which Judge James Pohl upheld his earlier decision that the CIA must release details of the detention and interrogation of detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Nashiri was charged in connection with the deaths of 17 sailors in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
After his capture in 2002, Nashiri was held by the CIA at so-called “black sites” before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. Judge Pohl’s ruling will force the CIA to give the location of the “black sites” and provide details of what happened there. According to Nashiri’s lawyer, interrogators revved a power drill near his head, waterboarded him and threatened him with a gun.
Although the government’s options for keeping the torture accounts secret are now severely limited due to the ruling, there is still a possibility that they can remain private. One lawyer said the government could “derail the whole Nashiri case” if it continues to appeal the decision, effectively dragging the case on for years. Even if the government’s appeals are denied, Nashiri’s lawyers will be the only one’s able to view the accounts. They will never be released to the public.
James Connell is a lawyer for a defendant in the 9/11 trial, and has been watching Nashiri’s trial closely. “The exact same issue of CIA torture is presented in the 9/11 case,” he said. His client, Anmar al-Baluchi, claimed similar instances of torture by the CIA. Pohl is also the judge for that case, and Connell is hopeful that there will be a similar ruling.
The CIA is also facing a case with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which intends to release portions of an investigation into reports of torture by the agency. Nashiri’s lawyers may be able to review the classified version of the investigation before its release, which would only add fuel to their case.
The CIA has yet to comment on Pohl’s ruling.