CIA Director Leon Panetta told a federal judge Monday that releasing documents about the agency’s terrorism interrogations would harm national security.
Panetta sent an affidavit to New York federal judge Alvin Hellerstein, arguing that release of agency cables describing tough interrogation methods used on Al Qaeda suspects would tell the enemy too much.
The CIA director filed the papers in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit has already led to the unveiling of Bush administration legal memos authorizing harsh methods and to a fight over releasing photos of abused detainees.
“I have determined that the disclosure of intelligence about Al Qaeda reasonably could be expected to result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security by informing our enemies of what we knew about them, and when, and in some instances, how we obtained the intelligence,” Panetta wrote.
President Obama said last month he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, reversing his earlier position out of concern the pictures would endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s national security program, said the Obama administration’s position amounts to “the greater the abuse, the more important it is that it should remain secret.”