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January 16, 2008

Today’s a big day in Tape Destruction World.

We’re headed to court at 3:00 p.m. to argue that the CIA acted in contempt of court when it destroyed hundreds of hours of videotape depicting the harsh treatment of two detainees in its custody. The CIA neglected to mention the existence of the tapes, and ultimately decided to destroy them in 2005, despite an order from a federal judge to produce or identify all records pertaining to – that’s right – the treatment of detainees in its custody.

We’ll also be arguing for the release of other government documents relating to the abuse of prisoners, including Office of Legal Counsel memos authorizing the CIA and the Defense Department to use harsh interrogation methods, documents relating to the CIA Office of Inspector General investigations into prisoner abuse and Defense Department videotapes believed to depict “Forced Cell Extraction” teams abusing Guantanamo prisoners.

In D.C., Acting General Counsel to the CIA John Rizzo is scheduled to testify in a closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing on the destruction of the tapes.

And in the interest of instilling a measure of independence from the Justice Department not likely with the Durham investigations, the ACLU is reiterating its call for an independent special counsel to investigate not only the destruction of the interrogation tapes but also the underlying acts of detainee abuse they most likely depict.

Let’s hope today brings reminders of what checks and balances – and meaningful oversight – should look like.

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