NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge refused on Wednesday to release records describing interrogation techniques authorized for overseas use by the CIA, saying it was up to the agency to decide if they should remain secret.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled against requests by the American Civil Liberties Union to release documents from a total of 580 that included names and dates of when detainees were captured as well as descriptions of destroyed videotapes that showed CIA interrogations of two suspects.
Speaking from the bench, Hellerstein noted that in a “post-9/11 world,” there was strong pressure for the United States “to gather evidence from various sources” and that the courts need to defer to CIA Director Leon Panetta in assessing whether they should remain secret.
He reviewed some of the documents behind closed doors before ruling.
Hellerstein ordered the CIA to release one document containing handwritten notes of a CIA employee discussing the destroyed tapes.
“We are troubled by the amount of deference he has given the CIA,” ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo told reporters after the hearing. He said the judge was showing too much restraint about “an interrogation program that the whole world knows about.”
In March, the Justice Department disclosed the CIA had destroyed 92 videotapes of harsh interrogation sessions made in 2002 involving two suspects who it said later were subjected to “waterboarding.”
The Justice Department is conducting a separate criminal investigation to see whether the CIA violated any laws when it destroyed the tapes in 2005 during the Bush administration.
Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Cooney