The Columbia Journalism Review (no affiliation with the press), recently interviewed Jameel Jaffer, co-author of Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond.
In the interview Jaffer explains the difficult and often circuitous routes the ACLU had to take in order to get access to the documents pertaining to the United States’s detainee and immigration policies. Of course, they won a major victory on April 16th, when the Obama Justice department agreed to release four key memos produced by the Office of Legal Counsel in 2002 and 2005. The documents underscore the documents included in Administration of Torture, pointing to an officially sanctioned policy of prisoner abuse and aggressive interrogation.
Jaffer talks about the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that the ACLU filed and how reporters aided its progress. He also admits to being surprised by not only the fact they were able to get access to key documents but also what they learned from them:
I won’t pretend that we thought we had a good chance of getting very much of this stuff. We didn’t. In part we thought that filing the request would be a way of bringing attention to this issue and perhaps putting some pressure on the administration.
The main reason we didn’t expect to get very much is because it never occurred to us that there was this immense torture program that had been authorized at the senior-most levels of the Bush administration. We thought there was a pattern of abuse, maybe something more than what the New York Times and the Washington Post had reported. That occurred to us. But the thought that lawyers in the Justice Department were working away on memos that authorized CIA interrogators to use methods that the U.S. had once prosecuted as war crimes? That never occurred to us. In retrospect, we were naïve. But we just didn’t expect it.