updated 9/3/2008 3:58:21 PM ET 2008-09-03T19:58:21

A federal judge has ruled in New York that the government must either produce memos on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA or explain why they should be kept secret.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein says the memos are "clearly responsive" to a lawsuit filed in 2003 by the ACLU and other civil rights groups seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment Wednesday.

The New York Times last year disclosed the existence some of the Justice Department memos. It said they authorized interrogators to use methods like waterboarding, head slapping and exposure to freezing temperatures.

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