updated 1/11/2007 12:22:32 AM ET 2007-01-11T05:22:32

The CIA cannot reveal "alternative interrogation methods" used on terrorists because doing so would cause exceptionally grave damage to national security by telling enemies how the agency gathers intelligence, the government has told a judge.

In a document dated Friday and filed in U.S. District Court in New York, the CIA said it cannot reveal more than what President Bush said last summer about the detention and questioning of terrorism suspects.

The American Civil Liberties Union had asked the court to require the CIA to turn over two Justice Department memos discussing interrogation methods and a presidential order concerning the CIA's authorization to set up detention facilities outside the United States.

On Wednesday, ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said in a statement that the CIA court document "uses national security as a pretext for withholding evidence that high-level government officials in all likelihood authorized abusive techniques that amount to torture."

He added: "This declaration is especially disturbing because it suggests that unlawful interrogation techniques cleared by the Justice Department for use by the CIA still remain in effect. The American public has a right to know how the government is treating its prisoners."

On Sept. 6, Bush acknowledged the existence of a CIA terrorist detention and interrogation program and said the agency used an alternative set of interrogation procedures to question some suspects. He said 14 suspected terrorists in CIA custody had been transferred to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The president said he could not describe the interrogation techniques because doing so would help terrorists determine how to resist questioning.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," Bush said.

The CIA also told the court that it knows al-Qaida trains operatives in interrogation resistance and would make its resistance techniques more effective if it knew how the CIA operated.

The deputy director of the ACLU's National Security Program, Jameel Jaffer, said the president and his legal advisers used the secret memos to create a legal framework so the CIA could violate U.S. and international law.

"While national security sometimes requires secrecy, it is increasingly clear that these documents are being kept secret not for national security reasons, but for political ones," he said.

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