U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein issued the order after he had earlier said the 18-page memo did not have to be turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union because it was protected by attorney-client privilege. The ACLU said it believes the memo includes a section addressing the subject of waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Hellerstein said he reconsidered his ruling after hearing from both sides again on the subject. The CIA must turn the item over for review on Monday.
Rebekah Carmichael, a spokeswoman for government lawyers representing the CIA, said the government had no immediate comment.
Hellerstein said he realized he did not give sufficient consideration to an earlier court ruling related to the legal issue and to ACLU evidence indicating all or parts of the memo may have been incorporated into or used to justify official practice and policy.
The ACLU praised the decision, saying the memo written by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel is critical to the public debate over treatment of detainees because
it specified brutal interrogation techniques including waterboarding.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said no Department of Defense memo made public so far has included a section addressing waterboarding.
"There are still significant gaps in the story of how U.S. interrogators came to use torture and this memo is a critical piece of this story," Jaffer said.
"We think that the public has a right to see the documents that provided a basis for the CIA's torture program," he said. "We know that interrogators waterboarded prisoners and subjected prisoners to other forms of torture. There's no legitimate reason why the basis for those interrogation practices should be withheld."
The order came as a result of a lawsuit brought in October 2003 by the ACLU and other civil rights groups seeking to use the Freedom of Information Act to get records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. So far, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released as a result.