WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2018 — After nearly two decades of requests for information, the family of Gul Rahman, who was tortured to death in CIA custody in 2002, is suing the agency to determine what it did with his body. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the family, filed the lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. The ACLU also filed a second lawsuit against the CIA today seeking information about the agency’s efforts to influence public opinion in support of Gina Haspel’s Senate confirmation as CIA director.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Rahman’s family seeks to compel the CIA to turn over records concerning Rahman’s body, including information about the location of the body, and any procedures, protocols, or guidelines to be followed in the event of a CIA detainee’s death while in U.S. custody.
“I have faith that people in America will know the right thing for their government to do is to tell me and my family what happened to my father’s body,” said Hajira Hematyara, Rahman’s daughter and a teacher in a village near Kabul, Afghanistan. “Only then will we be able to do right by my father and give him a proper funeral.”
Rahman was forcibly taken by the CIA in November 2002 while in Islamabad, Pakistan, for a medical checkup. Shortly after, he was rendered to a CIA prison in Afghanistan, where, for two weeks, CIA personnel subjected Rahman to torture, which included stripping him naked, shackling his hands above his head, forcing him to stand for days without sleeping, depriving him of food, physically assaulting him, and drenching him with freezing water.
On November 20, 2002, Rahman died of hypothermia in CIA custody. The CIA did not inform Rahman’s family of his death and, for over a decade, maintained that the information was an official secret. The landmark Senate report on the CIA’s torture program, released in December 2014, officially confirmed Rahman’s death.
To date, the CIA has not officially informed Rahman’s family of his death, nor returned his body to his family.
“No grieving family should be forced to wait 16 years to have a funeral,” said ACLU National Security Project Staff Attorney Dror Ladin. “The CIA can’t hide Mr. Rahman’s body forever, and it’s long past time for the agency to come clean.”
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The ACLU’s second lawsuit hones in on the CIA’s campaign to shape public opinion in favor of Haspel’s nomination as director of the agency and her potential conflict of interest in controlling the classification of information related to her personal role in prisoner torture and abuse.
“The CIA led an unprecedented propaganda campaign to disseminate favorable information about Gina Haspel while refusing to disclose information about her role in torture and destruction of evidence,” said Ladin. “That’s sadly consistent with the CIA’s well-documented attempts to cover up the agency’s crimes, no matter the cost to victims and their families, or to our democratic institutions. But the victims and their families can’t forget, and the public can’t afford to forget either. This country still needs to continue to reckon with the consequences of torture.”
The ACLU asks the court to order the CIA to disclose records revealing, among other information, Haspel’s classification authority over information about her own role in torture; any agency consideration of possible resulting conflicts of interest; communications between current and former CIA personnel, journalists, former CIA employees, and public relations firms; decisions to promote coverage deemed favorable of Haspel; and communications from CIA staff to the White House.