The CIA is refusing to disclose any information about abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, invoking a legal precedent that involved a secret project by billionaire Howard Hughes to recover a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine in the 1970s.
The CIA allegedly oversaw interrogations of top-level detainees, and some investigators think the agency’s tactics are at the heart of the question of whether the Bush administration has authorized torture. But nearly all the disclosures concerning abuses have come from other agencies, including the Pentagon and the FBI.
The CIA traditionally has invoked special protections aimed at shielding its intelligence-gathering operations, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing to obtain the records, and some independent observers think the agency’s insistence on secrecy is inappropriate in this instance.
Megan Lewis, a lawyer for the ACLU, said she would file an objection in early January to the CIA’s efforts to avoid scrutiny.
The CIA asserts that it is protected according to the submarine case, in which a judge allowed the agency to neither confirm nor deny that it possessed records of a deep-sea mining project thought to be a front to recover a sunken Soviet submarine. The CIA has refused to acknowledge whether it has documents and photographs related to abuse of detainees.