The CIA Destroyed Evidence..So Why Shouldn’t They Be Held in Contempt?

Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-Guest Blogger

 

Since we have been all so absorbed by the ongoing political saga involving the imaginary debt ceiling crisis, I thought it would be therapeutic to discuss something totally unrelated to that nonsense.  As you will recall, the CIA destroyed hundreds of hours of video tape documentation of the infamous CIA Torture Program during the last Administration.  “Despite a court order, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) destroyed hundreds of hours of video tape showing the alleged torture of two terror detainees, and now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is asking a New York judge to punish them for it.  In a case being heard Monday, attorneys for the ACLU will argue that the agency, and former deputy director Jose Rodriguez in particular, should be held in contempt of an order to preserve records responsive to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed in 2004.

“The record indicates that far from an innocent mistake, Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed to cover up evidence that ‘would make us look terrible’ and be ‘devastating’ to the CIA,” the ACLU’s filing (PDF) argues, quoting Rodriguez emails obtained through FOIA requests. “Indeed, Rodriguez weighed the ‘heat’ that would come from destroying the documents and concluded that it ‘is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever go into public domain.'”

As many as 92 tapes of terror war captives being tortured by CIA operatives were allegedly destroyed. Officials suggested these recordings depicted torture sessions with terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.  Along with the tapes, detailed records of the CIA’s so-called “torture flights,” showing the planes, destinations and even the passengers, were also said destroyed.” Raw Story

Now, I may be a little slow, but I hardly think that the CIA “accidentally” destroyed a treasure trove of incriminating evidence after being ordered to protect all evidence by a Federal Judge.  Here is a link to the full ACLU contempt filing:   ACLU   As the quoted CIA emails state, the former Deputy Director was obviously worried about what would happen if the American public ever saw the damaging evidence that the judge had ordered to be preserved. It sounds logical that Mr. Rodriguez and the CIA made a “Ford Pinto” type of decision that they would rather deal with the courts than the American public.

What does this situation tell us about the state of our Democracy, when an agency of the Federal Government appears to have intentionally disobeyed a court order, just to save their own skin? What does it tell us about our Democracy when the Justice Department refuses to hold anyone responsible for torture that has been illegal for decades?

It has been almost seven (7) years since this FOIA request and almost four (4) years since the CIA admitted to destroying the protected records.  Should the former Deputy Director be held responsible and should higher-ups be included to deter law breaking in the future? If the court doesn’t order the CIA and its officials to pay damages, will any agency ever fear a court decision or order again?  I know what you may be thinking.  A lot of questions, but no answers.    Let’s hear your answers!

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty-Guest Blogger

 

107 thoughts on “The CIA Destroyed Evidence..So Why Shouldn’t They Be Held in Contempt?

  1. Ignore my last comment. Will just repost. (Anon should have been NoWay)

    NoWay,

    Regarding “Loose lips sink ships.”:

    They do, but so do lips that are indiscriminately sealed. What’s going on in America is treasonous, but I trust that “the truth will out”, at some point…. In the meantime, I trust that folks like Greenwald will keep pushing… Guys like Greenwald are the patriots… Those who are hiding behind phrases like “state secrets privilege”, “national security”, “we can neither confirm nor deny” disgust me, knowing what I know…. I’ll repost the following:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-are-we-subverting-the-constitution-in-the-name-of-security/2011/08/25/gIQANnrheJ_story.html

    Mayday.

  2. http://www.aclu.org/blog/human-rights-national-security/appeals-court-says-cia-can-hide-torture-evidence-public

    05/25/2012

    Appeals Court Says CIA Can Hide Torture Evidence from Public

    By Alexander Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project

    “Earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that the CIA can effectively decide for itself what Americans are allowed to learn about the torture committed in their name. At issue in the ACLU’s long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was the agency’s right to withhold secret cables describing waterboarding; a photograph of a detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to the “enhanced interrogation techniques”; and a short phrase that appears in several Justice Department memos referring to a “source of authority.”

    The CIA argued that the cables could be kept hidden because waterboarding is an “intelligence method” exempt from disclosure under FOIA; that the photograph should remain secret because it depicted a detainee in custody during the timeframe of his interrogation; and that the “source of authority” was in fact an “intelligence source or method.”
    Film and submit your reading of Khalid El-Masri’s statement, “Mistakenly Rendered to Torture,” for our Reckoning with Torture film project.

    A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the CIA on all three counts, allowing the CIA to keep secret precisely the sort of information that FOIA was designed to expose: evidence of illegal government conduct. The court also granted the government the Orwellian authority to censor a photograph of a detainee because the photograph might reveal the detainee’s “condition” after being tortured.

    Here’s the New York Times’s reaction to the decision in an editorial published today:

    The C.I.A. is, generally, entitled to shield legitimate intelligence sources and methods. But the public’s interest in disclosure in this case was especially strong. And, as the A.C.L.U. argued, unlawful waterboarding is not properly an intelligence method within the scope of the FOIA disclosure exemptions. The government argued, and the judges agreed, that the photo of Mr. Zubaydah would reveal the detainee’s condition after torture. That is a compelling argument for its release.

    The judges should have given the government’s overwrought claims of national security and secrecy special scrutiny, not extreme deference.

    We are particularly disheartened that an administration with a stated commitment to transparency has claimed the need to shield details about waterboarding despite publicly acknowledging that waterboarding is torture. Were any other country to claim that national security required the suppression of details of torture, Americans would be rightfully shocked and incredulous.”

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  3. http://www.aclu.org/blog/human-rights-national-security/appeals-court-says-cia-can-hide-torture-evidence-public

    05/25/2012

    Appeals Court Says CIA Can Hide Torture Evidence from Public

    By Alexander Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project

    “Earlier this week, a federal appeals court ruled that the CIA can effectively decide for itself what Americans are allowed to learn about the torture committed in their name. At issue in the ACLU’s long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was the agency’s right to withhold secret cables describing waterboarding; a photograph of a detainee, Abu Zubaydah, taken around the time that he was subjected to the “enhanced interrogation techniques”; and a short phrase that appears in several Justice Department memos referring to a “source of authority.”

    The CIA argued that the cables could be kept hidden because waterboarding is an “intelligence method” exempt from disclosure under FOIA; that the photograph should remain secret because it depicted a detainee in custody during the timeframe of his interrogation; and that the “source of authority” was in fact an “intelligence source or method.”
    Film and submit your reading of Khalid El-Masri’s statement, “Mistakenly Rendered to Torture,” for our Reckoning with Torture film project.

    A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the CIA on all three counts, allowing the CIA to keep secret precisely the sort of information that FOIA was designed to expose: evidence of illegal government conduct. The court also granted the government the Orwellian authority to censor a photograph of a detainee because the photograph might reveal the detainee’s “condition” after being tortured.

    Here’s the New York Times’s reaction to the decision in an editorial published today:

    The C.I.A. is, generally, entitled to shield legitimate intelligence sources and methods. But the public’s interest in disclosure in this case was especially strong. And, as the A.C.L.U. argued, unlawful waterboarding is not properly an intelligence method within the scope of the FOIA disclosure exemptions. The government argued, and the judges agreed, that the photo of Mr. Zubaydah would reveal the detainee’s condition after torture. That is a compelling argument for its release.

    The judges should have given the government’s overwrought claims of national security and secrecy special scrutiny, not extreme deference.

    We are particularly disheartened that an administration with a stated commitment to transparency has claimed the need to shield details about waterboarding despite publicly acknowledging that waterboarding is torture. Were any other country to claim that national security required the suppression of details of torture, Americans would be rightfully shocked and incredulous.”

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