Published: Monday March 2, 2009
While it has been known for some time that the CIA had destroyed tapes of interrogations with terrorism suspects, Monday's news that 92 videotapes had been destroyed by the agency was still shocking.
The CIA acknowledged the number of tape erasures in a letter filed by government lawyers in New York. The letter was filed in response to an ongoing lawsuit from the the American Civil Liberties Union that is seeking more details of terror interrogation programs.
The ACLU immediately called for the judge to issue a "prompt finding of contempt" against the CIA.
Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU and counsel on the case said to Raw Story, “The large number of video tapes destroyed confirms that this was a systemic attempt to evade court orders.”
Singh added, "It’s about time, now that the court knows 92 tapes have been destroyed, that it hold the CIA accountable for the destruction of the tapes."
The letter was submitted when the court's stay of consideration of the ACLU's contempt motion expired on Feb. 28. John Durham, the acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is conducting the criminal investigation into the destruction of any interrogation tapes, did not request an additional stay.
According to the letter, which can be viewed here, the CIA is now gathering information in response to the Court’s order to provide a list identifying and describing each of the destroyed records, as well as transcripts or summaries from any of the destroyed records and the names of any witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes before their destruction. The CIA requested that it be given until March 6 to provide the court with a timeline for its response to the requested information.
In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of videotapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all the requested records. That motion is still pending, according to a release from the ACLU.
The ACLU contends that the tapes should have been identified and processed in response to its FOIA request for information on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.
The tapes became a contentious issue in the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, after prosecutors initially claimed no such recordings existed, then acknowledged two videotapes and one audiotape had been made.
This latest news of CIA tape erasures dovetails into Senate plans to hold a review of the agency's detention and interrogation program. The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to investigate whether the steps taken by the CIA to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects were properly authorized.
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