ACLU Obtains New Information About Destruction Of Torture Tapes

November 24, 2009 4:24 pm

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Documents Reveal Date Tapes Were Destroyed And Earlier White House Involvement Than Previously Known

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NEW YORK – Records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal new information about the CIA’s destruction of videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of prisoners at CIA black sites, including the precise date the tapes were destroyed and evidence that the White House was involved in early discussions about the proposed destruction. The new records, obtained by the ACLU late last week, consist principally of an index of CIA documents relating to the destruction of the tapes. The documents themselves have been withheld in their entirety, purportedly for reasons relating to national security.

“The chronology outlined in this new index supplies further evidence that the CIA destroyed the videotapes in order to prevent the public from learning the full scope of the CIA’s torture program, and further evidence that the Bush White House was on notice that the CIA intended to destroy the tapes,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “We continue to believe that the CIA’s destruction of the tapes constituted contempt of court, and we intend to press that case over the next few weeks.”

Listed in the index released last week are a November 8, 2005 cable from a CIA field office to CIA headquarters requesting permission to destroy the 92 tapes and a November 9, 2005 cable confirming their destruction. The precise date of destruction confirms that the tapes were destroyed immediately after the Washington Post reported the existence of the CIA black sites and the New York Times reported that the CIA Inspector General had questioned the legality of the agency’s torture program.

The index also lists the earliest known record of White House participation in discussions about destroying the tapes – an e-mail dated February 22, 2003 revealing that CIA officials met with Bush administration officials to discuss how the agency should respond to a letter from Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) advising the agency not to destroy the tapes. While it was known previously that the White House participated in discussions about the disposition of the tapes, this is the earliest record to date of any such discussions.

“The information released about the CIA’s February 2003 consultation with the White House about the destruction of the videotapes sheds even more light on the extent of the Bush administration’s micromanagement of the CIA’s torture program,” said Alex Abdo, a legal fellow with the ACLU National Security Project. “Releasing these and other documents in full is essential to fully understanding the responsibility of high-level officials for torture.”

The government has previously said that it has roughly 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to the videotapes, but it continues to withhold the documents in their entirety.

The ACLU is seeking disclosure of these records as part of its pending motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the tapes, which violated a court order requiring it to produce or identify records responsive to the ACLU’s FOIA request for records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas.

Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Abdo and Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jenny-Brooke Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The index obtained by the ACLU last week is available online at:

A selected chronology of what is now known about the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes is available online at:

More information about the ACLU’s torture FOIA is available online at:

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