When asked by the American Civil Liberties Union for copies of about two dozen leaked cables concerning rendition, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other matters, the State Department said 12 cables must be "must be withheld in full" because they are classified as secret or have important information, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Alex Galovich, with the department's Office of Information Programs and Services, told the ACLU the other 11 "may be released with excisions," the ACLU said.
Ben Wizner, litigation director for the ACLU's national security project, said the group's request for documents already published by WikiLeaks was partly mischief, but the organization also wanted to force the government to officially acknowledge counter-terrorism actions often are shielded by classification.
"In part the request was to expose the absurdity of the U.S. secrecy regime," Wizner told the Times.
He said the government repeatedly blocked lawsuits challenging counter-terrorism programs by invoking the state secrets privilege and arguing in court allowing the proceedings would endanger national security.
"The only place in the world where torture and rendition cannot be discussed is U.S. courtrooms," Wizner said.
The State Department and the Justice Department declined to comment, the Times said, because the ACLU request was still being litigated. Previously, government officials said they don't recognize the leaking of classified material as the legal equivalent of declassification.