ACLU FOIAs WikiLeaks Cables

Back in April, the ACLU FOIAed a bunch of State Department cables that had been released via WikiLeaks. The State Department made no response. So now the ACLU is suing to get the cables.

The suit is interesting for several reasons. First, check out which cables ACLU has FOIAed:

The requested cables relate to the United States’ diplomatic response to foreign investigations of United States abduction, interrogation, detention, and rendition practices; efforts by the Federal government to prosecute or release former and current Guantanamo detainees; the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles; and the diplomatic efforts surrounding President Obama’s decision to oppose the release of photographs depicting U.S. interrogations of persons suspected of terrorism.

The ACLU is focusing on cables that cut to the heart of America’s hypocrisy on human rights and international law.

As the suit suggests, it wants the government to have to confirm or deny whether the discussions depicted in the cables actually happened.

In spite of the urgent national interest and extensive media coverage surrounding the alleged diplomatic cables, at the time this FOIA request was made, DOS had not yet informed the American people whether the disclosed documents referred to actual federal government activity. Nor has it done so to date.

Mind you, we know they really happened–but by releasing the cables through FOIA, the State Department will have to admit it. And if they have to admit it, it will become harder to keep quashing these investigations.

(As luck would have it, the European Parliament yesterday just passed a resolution that “Calls on the EU and Member States authorities, as well as the US authorities, to ensure that full, fair, effective, independent and impartial inquiries and investigations are carried out into human rights violations and crimes under international, European and national law, and to bring to justice those responsible, including in the framework of the CIA extraordinary renditions and secret prisons programme;”)

Plus, this suit will be an interesting parallel proceeding to the government’s plodding formulation of guidelines that will allow Gitmo defense lawyers some access to the Gitmo Documents that describe their clients.

Finally, there’s one other interesting wrinkle here. Many of these documents seemingly should have been turned over in the ACLU’s (and CCR’s) previous FOIAs on torture and rendition. So will this FOIA suit force the State Department to admit whether it was blowing off a FOIA in the past?

Here’s the actual request from April. The cables they’ve requested are below:


SPAIN STILL INTERESTED IN GUANTANAMO DETAINEES, BUT NOT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CONVICTION

SPAIN: PROSECUTOR WEIGHS GTMO CRIMINAL CASE VS. FORMER USG OFFICIALS

SPAIN: ATTORNEY GENERAL RECOMMENDS COURT NOT PURSUE GTMO CRIMINAL CASE VS. FORMER USG OFFICIALS

GARZON OPENS SECOND INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGED U.S. TORTURE OF TERRORISM DETAINEES

GOT ASKS EUROPEANS NOT TO TAKE TUNISIAN GUANTANAMO DETAINEES

SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR EXPLANATION OF RETURNED DETAINEE ARM DISABILITY

COUNSELOR, CSIS DIRECTOR DISCUSS CT THREATS, PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN, IRAN

TO HELL AND BACK: GITMO EX-DETAINEE STUMPS IN LUXEMBOURG

FRENCH JUDGE SAYS C/T FOCUS IS ON “JIHADISTS TO IRAQ”

TWO EX-GTMO DETAINEES CHARGED WITH TERRORIST CONSPIRACY BUT ONE ORDERED RELEASED ON BAIL

DOD INTEL FLIGHTS: FCO CLARIFIES

EMERGING CONSTRAINTS ON U.S. MILITARY TRANSITS AT SHANNON

PORTUGUESE FM OFFERS TO RESIGN IF CIA FLIGHT ALLEGATIONS PROVE TRUE

GENERAL PETRAEUS’ MEETING WITH SALEH ON SECURITY ASSISTANCE, AQAP STRIKES

GILANI TO CODEL SNOWE: HELP US HIT TARGETS

USDP EDELMAN’S OCTOBER 15 MEETINGS IN LONDON

SPECIAL ADVISOR HOLBROOKE’S MEETING WITH SAUDI ASSISTANT INTERIOR MINISTER PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF

SWISS COUNTERTERRORISM OVERVIEW – SCENESETTER FOR FBI DIRECTOR MUELLER

GOS “HEADS UP”: SWISS FEDERAL PROSECUTOR TO ANNOUNCE FINDINGS ON OVERFLIGHT INVESTIGATION

SECDEF MEETING WITH ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER SILVIO BERLUSCONI, FEBRUARY 6, 201…

NETHERLANDS: TOUR D’HORIZON WITH FOREIGN MINISTER BOT

AL-MASRI CASE — CHANCELLERY AWARE OF USG CONCERNS

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. bobschacht says:

    (As luck would have it, the European Parliament yesterday just passed a resolution that “Calls on the EU and Member States authorities, as well as the US authorities, to ensure that full, fair, effective, independent and impartial inquiries and investigations are carried out into human rights violations and crimes under international, European and national law, and to bring to justice those responsible, including in the framework of the CIA extraordinary renditions and secret prisons programme;”)

    bmaz has assured me that cases like this, brought in Europe, will ever happen. But I continue to hope.

    I sadly conclude that if justice is done in these cases, it will probably not be done by “U.S. authorities,” as should have happened last year. However, when Nancy Pelosi took impeachment “off the table,” it deprived the American People of the kind of public hearings that laid the basis for Watergate. When the Watergate hearings started, no one was asking for impeachment. But the hearings themselves produced a groundswell of public opinion that eventually forced Nixon to resign.

    The main facts in this case are known only to a small minority of Americans. But just the hearings themselves could drastically affect public opinion and create a climate in which justice could be done.

    Bob in AZ