NEW YORK – A federal judge today rejected the CIA's attempt to withhold records relating to the agency's destruction of 92 videotapes that depicted the harsh interrogation of CIA prisoners. 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 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas.
The CIA had previously said it would only turn over documents from August 2002 that relate to the content of the videotapes. But U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York today ordered the CIA to produce records from April through December 2002 that relate to the content of the tapes, as well as documents from April 2002 through June 2003 that related to the destruction of the tapes and information about the persons and reasons behind their destruction.
Judge Hellerstein also ordered the government to reconsider the extent of redactions it intends to make to the documents in light of last week's release, also as part of the ACLU's FOIA litigation, of four secret memos used by the Bush administration to justify torture. In addition, the court ordered the government to explain whether contempt proceedings would interfere with a federal criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes led by prosecutor John Durham.
The following can be attributed to Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU:
"We welcome the court's recognition that the ACLU's contempt motion against the CIA must be promptly resolved. Recent disclosures about the CIA's torture methods further confirm that there is no basis for the agency to continue to withhold records relating to the content of the destroyed videotapes or documents that shed light upon who authorized their destruction and why. The public has a right to this information and the CIA must be held accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law."
Judge Hellerstein's order is available online at:www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/39459lgl20090420.html