August 3, 2011
No Contempt, but Fees, for CIA's Destruction of Torture Videos
Judge Alvin Hellerstein (S.D.N.Y.) ruled from the bench this week that the CIA was not in contempt of court for destroying 92 videotapes depicting torture of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri. But Judge Hellerstein also ordered the Agency to pay attorneys' fees to the ACLU, which brought the suit and the contempt motion, and asked the Agency to publish its new document-destruction policies (crafted in the wake of this litigation).
The ruling was the latest round in the ACLU's ongoing FOIA litigation to obtain records related to the detention and treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. The ruling arose out of the CIA's destruction in 2005 of 92 videotapes depicting torture of detainees. But the Agency only revealed that it destroyed the tapes in 2007. The court initially ordered the Agency to produce or identify all records pertaining to the treatment of detainees in its custody--including the 92 videotapes--in September 2004.
The ruling means that neither the CIA nor its officials who destroyed, or authorized the destruction of, the tapes will be held accountable through the courts.
[Image: Damhoudere, The Water Torture, Wikimedia Commons.]
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