U.S. government officials have blocked the release of 116 pages of defense lawyers' notes detailing the torture that Guantánamo Bay detainee Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah says he experienced in CIA custody, defense lawyers said on Thursday.
The treatment of Abu Zubaydah, who lost one eye and was waterboarded 83 times in a single month while held by the CIA, according to government documents, has been the focus of speculation for years.
"We submitted 116 pages in 10 separate submissions," said Joe Margulies, Abu Zubaydah’s lead defense lawyer. "The government declared all of it classified."
Margulies and lawyers for other detainees said that the decision showed that the Obama administration plans to continue declaring detainees’ accounts of their torture classified. A CIA representative declined to comment.
After the release of a U.S. Senate report on CIA torture in December, the government loosened its classification rules and released 27 pages of interview notes compiled by lawyers for detainee Majid Khan in which he described his torture.
Khan, a Guantánamo detainee turned government cooperating witness, said interrogators poured ice water on his genitals, twice videotaped him naked and repeatedly touched his "private parts" — none of which was described in the Senate report.
Khan said that guards, some of whom smelled of alcohol, also threatened to beat him with a hammer, baseball bats, sticks and leather belts.
"The CIA has apparently changed its mind about allowing detainees to talk about their torture," said Wells Dixon, Khan’s lawyer.
CIA and White House officials opposed releasing the Senate report, but Senator Dianne Feinstein, who then chaired the Intelligence Committee, made public its 480-page executive summary.
A month after the report's release, government lawyers said in a January 2015 court filing that the CIA had issued new classification rules that permitted the release of “general allegations of torture” and “information regarding the conditions of confinement.”
But they said the names of CIA employees or contractors could not be released. Nor the locations of the secret black sites where detainees were held around the world after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Margulies said the 116 pages of notes he submitted for clearance were limited to Zubayda's description of his torture and did not include prohibited information.
Margulies said he followed "the rule to the letter" and accused the CIA of trying "guarantee that Abu Zubaydah never discloses what was done to him."
Abu Zubaydah, a 44-year-old Saudi national, has been held in Guantánamo for nine years and has not been charged with a crime.