Federal Judge Orders Hearing on Destroyed CIA Tapes

The White House may have told District Judge Henry H. Kennedy not to “interfere” in the CIA tape controversy, but he appears to have other ideas. Today, he ordered a hearing for Friday on the question. He may be only the first judge to do so as the courts and Congress come to grips with an obvious case of obstruction and spoilation.

In June 2005, Kennedy handed down an order for the Administration to preserve “all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.”

Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos and the Administration is relying on a technicality — the two suspects tortured in the videos were not in Cuba. However, such preservation orders are supposed to be given liberal interpretation. Moreover, the government knew that the tapes have been sought by Congress and other courts. Finally, it knew that the tapes would likely be sought in this and other cases, including in the inevitable filings of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

In addition to obstruction, false statements, conspiracy, and perjury, there is spoliation where there is the intentional or negligent destruction or loss of tangible and relevant evidence which impairs a party’s ability to prove or defend a claim. This applies to “pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.” It has been defined “the destruction or significant alteration of evidence, or the failure to preserve crucial items as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.” This would clear meet that standard in my view.

It is good to see the court acting promptly. In the meantime, the public has once again heard the “silence of the lambs” in Congress. After cries of outrage, Democratic leadership has remained conspicuously silent about the fact that the tapes contained evidence of the crime of torture — ordered by the President with the knowledge of ranking members of the Administration (and Democratic and Republican members of Congress).

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3 thoughts on “Federal Judge Orders Hearing on Destroyed CIA Tapes”

  1. …”Kennedy did not say why he was ordering the hearing or what he planned to ask. Even if the judge accepts the argument that government did not violate his order, he still could raise questions about obstruction or spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence in “pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.”

    You may be right.

    I think my argument would be that they knew or should have known. “Ignorance” is not an excuse. If there was any question, before the tapes were destroyed, they should have asked. It’s as simple as that.

    Additionally, they were given fair warning by others who were in a position to express an informed opinion and advise them otherwise.

  2. Patty C,

    I fear the Judge may come up against the specificity of his own earlier order. I think the administration may have a case here, sorry to say.

  3. With all due respect for the federal rules, Judge Leonie Brinkema, from an earlier post, the Supreme Court Justices, the nine fired US Attorneys, AND Baseball, enter for the Record, WoooooooooHooooooooo, Judge Henry Kennedy!

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