The Central Intelligence Agency must turn over records regarding detainee interrogation tapes the agency destroyed in an alleged effort to protect the identity of its officers.
A federal judge rejected the CIA’s attempt to withhold records relating to the agency’s destruction of 92 videotapes that depicted interrogation of CIA prisoners in a ruling Friday afternoon. The tapes were said to have shown some detainees’ torture.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing for the documents’ release under the Freedom of Information Act, and aims to have the agency held in contempt of court for refusing to provide them.
The ACLU has been remarkably successful at obtaining previously secret government documents. President Barack Obama was recently forced to release Bush administration memos which outlined torture techniques to be employed on detainees.
ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh lauded the court’s decision.
“We welcome the court’s recognition that the ACLU’s contempt motion against the CIA must be promptly resolved,” Singh said in a release. “Recent disclosures about the CIA’s torture methods further confirm that there is no basis for the agency to continue to withhold records relating to the content of the destroyed videotapes or documents that shed light upon who authorized their destruction and why.
“The public has a right to this information and the CIA must be held accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law,” Singh added.
In a release, the civil liberties group noted “the CIA had previously said it would only turn over documents from August 2002 that relate to the content of the videotapes. But U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York today ordered the CIA to produce records from April through December 2002 that relate to the content of the tapes, as well as documents from April 2002 through June 2003 that related to the destruction of the tapes and information about the persons and reasons behind their destruction.”
“Judge Hellerstein also ordered the government to reconsider the extent of redactions it intends to make to the documents in light of last week’s release, also as part of the ACLU’s FOIA litigation, of four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture,” the release adds. “In addition, the court ordered the government to explain whether contempt proceedings would interfere with a federal criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes led by prosecutor John Durham.”