More Torture Docs Coming Friday?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The American public could learn more about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s torture and rendition policies on Friday if the Obama administration follows through on a promise to review a number of internal Bush administration documents. Earlier this month, the administration vowed to make its “best efforts” to process some 224 documents by October 30 to determine what can be publicly released. Government lawyers acknowledged last month that these documents are potentially responsive to a years-old ACLU Freedom of Information Act request for information relating to the death, treatment, and rendition of detainees.

The Bush administration initially considered these documents to be unrelated to the ACLU’s FOIA request. But when the Obama administration reviewed a large number of Bush-era documents under its new, less restrictive FOIA guidelines, it reached a different conclusion. The Obama team, however, couldn’t find ten of the documents that the Bush administration had originally listed in court filings.

In September, the Obama administration sent these 224 new documents to the CIA and other agencies for possible release. If government lawyers decide they can’t justify withholding any of the 224 documents, those records could be made public Friday. “Hopefully they will stick to that date, and hopefully we will get something,” says Alex Abdo, an ACLU lawyer working on the ongoing litigation concerning the FOIA request. ” If I were to guess, I would say that we will likely get at least a few documents, but it is really hard to know just yet.”

But there is one hitch: John Durham, a special prosecutor appointed by the Bush administration to look into the CIA’s destruction of interrogation videotapes, could conceivably preempt the release of any documents. In a filing last week in a related case, government lawyers said that Durham was claiming that the release of certain documents could interfere with his investigation and were off-limits. If Durham attempts to block the release of these documents, a court would have to decide whether his assertion of privilege was justified.

As Mother Jones has reported, one document that could be released is a 59-page Department of Defense top-secret memo from July 25, 2002. The document was actually just misfiled by the CIA, and the Obama team found it and sent it to the Pentagon for processing last month. The document is thought to outline the torture techniques, perhaps as part of an argument for using those techniques on detainees.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend