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Holding the CIA Accountable

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March 4, 2009

(Originally posted on The Hill’s Congress Blog.)

In a letter filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit on Monday, the CIA acknowledged it destroyed 92 tapes recording harsh interrogations of detainees held in U.S. custody abroad. The sheer number of videotapes destroyed indicates that the CIA engaged in a concerted effort to hide evidence of illegal activity.

The CIA’s systematic tape destruction also provides further confirmation that the agency violated a 2004 court order — in our FOIA case — to produce or identify all materials related to the interrogation of prisoners overseas. Under that order, the CIA should have acknowledged the existence of the tapes and either disclosed them or explained how they could be lawfully withheld. The CIA did neither of those things. And that’s why the ACLU filed a motion over a year ago to hold the agency in contempt for violating the court’s order. That motion is still pending.

For over five years, we have been trying to uncover information about the Bush administration’s torture policies. Now that it’s been confirmed that so many tapes were destroyed, we know there’s at least some information the public will never get to see. It is remarkable that CIA improperly withheld and then destroyed evidence of criminal activity — evidence that was requested by the 9/11 Commission and that at least one federal judge had ordered the CIA to identify or produce.

Clearly, the CIA must be held accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law.

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