CIA Cover-up of Torture Tapes Destruction Continues

By Kenneth J. Theisen

 
Remember when the CIA destroyed 92 “enhanced interrogation” videotapes to cover-up its torture of prisoners taken in the so-called “war on terror”? The tapes showed torture, including waterboarding, being used against so-called high value detainees. The tapes were ordered to be turned over to a court trying a “terrorism” suspect and also they were supposed to have been provided to the 9/11 Commission. But the CIA denied the tapes existence, both to the court and to the Commission. The CIA then destroyed the tapes to cover-up its crimes and to protect those at the top of the Bush regime that had ordered the torture.
 
Unfortunately for the CIA, the destruction of evidence will not keep the matter buried. The American
Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit seeking information on detainee abuse. As part of that ongoing lawsuit, on March 20th the CIA disclosed that it has a list of roughly 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to the destroyed interrogation videotapes. But the cover-up continues as the CIA refuses to disclose the list to the public. The CIA also refuses to publicly disclose a list of witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction. Keeping this information secret is critical to maintaining the cover-up. Revelation of these materials would undoubtedly implicate not only CIA operatives in many crimes, but also the top criminals in the Bush regime.
 
According to Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU, “The government is still needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture is well known. Full disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods is long overdue and the agency must be held accountable for flouting the rule of law."
It is true that the use of torture by the CIA is now well known. But the full story on how the CIA was authorized by top White House officials to use torture is still not fully known. The 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to the destroyed interrogation videotapes would go a long way in piecing the whole story together and could result in criminal prosecution. It could also provide links to other incriminating evidence that exists. That is why the CIA and government lawyers are trying to keep the evidence secret.
 
Back in December 2007, the ACLU filed a court motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending before the court.
 
The CIA's latest submission came in response to an August 20, 2008 court order issued in the context of the contempt motion. That order required the agency to produce "a list of any summaries, transcripts, or memoranda regarding the [destroyed tapes] and of any reconstruction of the records' contents" as well as a list of witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction. The CIA is supposed to provide these lists to the court for in camera (for the judge’s review) review on March 26, 2009.
 
In early March, the CIA officially admitted to destroying 92 tapes of interrogations. The tapes, some of which show CIA operatives subjecting suspects to torture should have been identified and processed for the ACLU in response to its Freedom of Information Act request demanding information on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The tapes were also illegally withheld from the 9/11 Commission which had formally requested that the CIA hand over transcripts and recordings documenting the interrogation of CIA prisoners.
 
World Can’t Wait will continue to follow and report on this case.
 
The government's letter to U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/39093res20090320.html
The ACLU's contempt motion and related legal documents are available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia