ACLU in Court Today Asking Judge to Hold CIA in Contempt for Destroying Torture Videotapes

August 1, 2011 10:30 am

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Individual Officials Involved Should Also Be Held in Contempt, ACLU Says

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and cooperating attorneys will be in court today arguing that a federal judge should hold the CIA in contempt for brazenly violating his orders by destroying videotapes showing the torture of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri. The ACLU will also ask for a contempt finding against Jose Rodriguez and other former CIA officials responsible for the destruction of the tapes.

“The CIA’s destruction of the torture tapes showed complete disdain for the authority of the judiciary and rule of law itself,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “By deciding to destroy evidence of criminal activity in direct violation of the judge’s clear instructions, the agency’s top officials aimed to deny the public and the courts the chance to hold them accountable. The only way to ensure that the torture policies are not resurrected in the future is to hold officials responsible for acts of torture in the past.”

The ACLU renewed its contempt motion in February, after the Justice Department decided it would not criminally charge anyone at the CIA for the 2005 destruction of at least 92 tapes of hundreds of hours of interrogations, which included illegal methods such as waterboarding. As part of the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the court had ordered the agency to produce or identify records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas. But the CIA did not even acknowledge that the interrogation tapes existed until 2007, when journalists discovered that the CIA had destroyed them.

CIA records released to the ACLU show that the destruction was ordered by Rodriguez, then head of the CIA Clandestine Service. He ran the CIA Counterterrorism Center at the time of the interrogations. The CIA continues to withhold documents relating to the tapes’ destruction, but information released so far suggests that other high-level officials, such as the agency’s acting general counsel, John Rizzo, were involved in the decision.

The FOIA lawsuit was filed in 2004 by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Peace and Veterans for Common Sense. Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Alexander Abdo and Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Alicia Bannon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Today’s hearing will be at 3:00 p.m. at the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, Courtroom 14D.

The ACLU’s renewed contempt motion is available at:

The ACLU’s reply to the government’s response is available at:

More information on the ACLU’s Torture FOIA case is available at:

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