On Wednesday, the Washington D.C. Circuit Court gave the CIA permission to keep secret unredacted transcripts in which 14 prisoners now held at Guantánamo Bay describe abuse and torture they endured in CIA custody - without even looking at the evidence itself. (h/t Kat)

"The Court, giving deference to the agency’s detailed, good-faith declaration, is disinclined to second-guess the agency in its area of expertise through in camera review," Lamberth wrote (.pdf), referring to a procedure where a judge looks at evidence in his chamber without showing it to the opposing side.

The ruling comes in a case where the ACLU filed a government sunshine suit to force the government to unredact allegations from statements from so-called High Value Detainees such as 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheihk Muhammed that the CIA kidnapped and tortured them.

The judge's decision not to look at the blacked-out text to see if secrets are involved allows the Bush Administration to continue to hide its use of torture techniques, according to Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

The CIA says that releasing the transcripts would harm national security - by revealing torturous interrogation techniques and which nations were complicit in facillitating those tortures. That's not how they phrase it, but that's what the double-speak actually means.

"Among the details that cannot be publicly released are the conditions of the detainees’ capture, the employment of alternative interrogation methods, and other operational details," the CIA's Wendy Hilton told the court in a sworn affidavit (.pdf). "Specifically, disclosure of such information is reasonably likely to degrade the CIA's ability to effectively question terrorist detainees and elicit information necessary to protect the American people"

The CIA also successfully argued that it needed to redact statements about what countries were involved in the program, saying that such allegations could destroy relationships with countries that helped with the CIA's controversial program of secretly kidnapping suspected terrorists and shuttling them to hidden prisons in Europe and Asia, where neither families nor the Red Cross knew of their detention.

The ACLU's Ben Wizner put it plainly (H/t Rachel M):

"This decision allows the Bush administration to continue its illegal cover-up of its systemic torture polices. The government has suppressed these detainees' allegations of brutal torture not to protect any legitimate national security interests, but to protect itself from criticism and liability. It is unlawful for the government to withhold information on these grounds."

It continues to pain me that Democratic leaders refuse to talk seriously about criminal investigations of those who ordered and were involved in illegal rendition and torture. Irealise that the extreme Right would make the issue as divisive as they could. I realise there's a lot of work to be done to roll back the damage the Bush years have done to America. But these war crimes strike directly at the very concept of America and at America's standing in the world as well as at fundamental premises of the rule of law. To deliberately not investigate - and not prosecute where needed - would be itself a crime.

As for John McCain - he thinks that Gitmo is "one of the nicest places in the world" and that allowing detainees who were tortured, illegally detained and are often innocent of all crimes even by the Bush administration's own admission was "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country". What a maverick. Court Tells CIA It Can Keep Torture Evidence Secret | Crooks and Liars
Well, this should be interesting when it finally gets to the Supreme Court.