View Full Version : Court Orders Administration To Preserve Possible Evidence Of Torture

12-13-2007, 10:51 AM
Court orders administration to preserve possible evidence of torture


McClatchy Newspapers

A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., issued a preliminary order on Tuesday directing the Bush administration to preserve any evidence that might show that a former Baltimore resident was tortured during his three years in secret CIA detention.

The order, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, gave the government until Dec. 20 to respond to a court filing last week that accused the CIA of torturing Majid Khan, 27.

Khan is among 15 high-value detainees who once were held by the CIA but are now in military custody at the prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Khan's lawyers requested the court action last week, after CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged that the agency had destroyed videotapes of the interrogations of two other Guantanamo detainees who, like Khan, had spent years in secret CIA custody.

Khan, who was a legal U.S. resident and graduated from a suburban Baltimore high school, hasn't been charged with a crime. Pentagon officials claim that he was assigned by the reputed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to research "the poisoning of U.S. water reservoirs and the possibility of blowing up gas stations."

Of the 15 captives formerly held by the CIA, only Khan has been allowed to see his attorneys.

Based on the meetings, his attorneys claimed in a 25-page motion that there was ample proof that their client had been tortured, and they asked the appeals court to order that evidence be preserved. Under the Military Commissions Act that Congress passed last year, the Washington appeals court is the only civilian court with jurisdiction to hear detainee issues.

It's impossible to verify the attorneys' claims independently. Intelligence officers blacked out major portions of their filing before it was released publicly.

In its order, the appeals court directed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to "take all measures necessary to preserve the material described in the motion for preservation of torture evidence pending the remainder of briefing on that motion and further order of the court."

The judges issuing the order were Judith W. Rogers, Merrick B. Garland and Thomas B. Griffith. Rogers and Garland were appointed to the court by President Clinton. Griffith was appointed by the current President Bush.

12-14-2007, 08:05 PM

UN expert: Tapes point to CIA torture

Thu Dec 13, 6:46 PM ET

The destruction of CIA interrogation tapes supports suspicions that the agency used torture to gather information from terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, a U.N. human rights expert who recently visited the prison said Thursday.

Martin Scheinin, the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in the fight against terrorism, also said he had reason to believe the CIA continues to use interrogation methods that violate international law.

"The destruction of videotapes of CIA interrogations is one more argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved, and continues to be involved, in the use of interrogation techniques that violate the absolute prohibition against torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment," he told reporters.

Scheinin did not explain how he reached this conclusion.

There was no immediate response from U.S. officials to Scheinin's comments. But the CIA's director, Gen. Michael Hayden, has said the destroyed tapes did not show any unlawful interrogations.

In a Dec. 6 memo to the CIA's staff disclosing the existence of the tapes and their destruction, Hayden said the tapes had been reviewed by CIA lawyers who "determined that they showed lawful methods of questioning."

The CIA denies it ever tortures detainees, and the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding has been prohibited since 2006 by Hayden.

The tapes in question showed the interrogations of two top terrorism suspects in 2002. The CIA destroyed the tapes three years later out of fear they would leak to the public and compromise the identities of U.S. questioners, Hayden said in his memo.

Scheinin's comments came a day after he presented his findings on the legal process at Guantanamo to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

U.S. officials described Scheinin's reporting on the military commissions set up to try detainees as misleading, ill-informed and oversimplified.

Scheinin, a Finnish professor who acts as an independent expert for the 47-nation human rights body, visited Guantanamo last week to observe a legal hearing for one of the 305 detainees now held at the facility.

He said CIA officials with whom he met at Guantanamo "failed to answer any single question in a substantive way, in a meaningful way, which only confirmed the suspicion that they have too much to hide, so they prefer not to answer questions."

Scheinin said he believed the United States would not prosecute about 150 Guantanamo detainees because of the sensitive information that might be revealed in trials.

"Bringing them to court would bring to the court's attention the methods through which the evidence, including the confessions, were obtained," he said.

12-15-2007, 12:31 AM

Congress's Probe of CIA Tapes Resisted
Both Parties Decry Justice Dept. Move
By Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 15, 2007; A01

The Justice Department moved yesterday to delay congressional inquiries into the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes, saying the administration could not provide witnesses or documents sought by lawmakers without jeopardizing its own investigation of the CIA's actions.

Congressional leaders from both parties alleged that Justice is trying to block their investigation and vowed to press ahead with hearings.

A pair of letters from Justice and CIA officials to leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees intensified the conflict between the Bush administration and Congress, which is seeking to force current and former CIA leaders to testify as early as next week. The lawmakers want CIA officials to account for the decision to destroy tapes that depicted the use of harsh interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects.

The growing feud is the first major confrontation with Congress for new Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, who was narrowly confirmed last month amid controversy over his refusal to describe waterboarding -- a severe interrogation tactic that simulates drowning -- as torture.

"We fully appreciate the committee's oversight interest in this matter, but want to advise you of concerns that actions responsive to your request would represent significant risk to our preliminary inquiry," Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, and CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson wrote in a letter to House intelligence committee leaders.

The top Democrat and Republican on the House intelligence committee issued a joint statement that labels Justice's advice to the CIA witnesses an effort to obstruct the congressional probe.

"We are stunned that the Justice Department would move to block our investigation," Reps. Silvestre Reyes (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/r000170/) (D-Tex.) and Peter Hoekstra (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/h000676/) (R-Mich.) said in the statement. "Parallel investigations occur all of the time, and there is no basis upon which the Attorney General can stand in the way of our work."

They vowed to "use all the tools available to Congress, including subpoenas" to compel the to CIA to produce documents and require key officials to testify about the tapes.

The exchange followed a letter earlier in the day from Mukasey that rebuffed congressional demands for details about the joint Justice-CIA inquiry into the tapes' destruction and rejected calls for the appointment of an independent prosecutor. Mukasey said that providing the information to Congress would make it appear that the department is "subject to political influence."

"At my confirmation hearing, I testified that I would act independently, resist political pressure and ensure that politics plays no role in cases brought by the Department of Justice," Mukasey wrote in a letter to Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/l000174/) (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/s000709/) (R-Pa.), chairman and ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee.

In recent weeks, lawmakers, primarily Democrats, have showered the Justice Department with demands for investigations or information on topics including baseball's steroids scandal and allegations of rape by a former military contractor employee.

Mukasey replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, who left office in September after the furor over his handling of the firings of nine U.S. attorneys and allegations that he misled Congress in sworn testimony.

The CIA disclosed last week that it destroyed videotapes in 2005 depicting interrogation sessions for alleged al-Qaeda operative Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, commonly known as Abu Zubaida, and another suspect, later identified by officials as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Administration officials have said that lawyers at the Justice Department and the White House, including then-Counsel Harriet E. Miers, advised the CIA against destroying the tapes but that CIA lawyers ruled their preservation was not required.

CIA officials said the agency's director, Michael V. Hayden, is prepared to cooperate with all investigators.

"Director Hayden has said the Agency will cooperate fully with both the preliminary inquiry conducted by DOJ and CIA's Office of Inspector General, and with the Congress," agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said. "That has been, and certainly still is, the case."

The Justice Department announced Dec. 8 that it had joined the CIA's inspector general in launching a preliminary inquiry into the tape destruction. Prosecutors asked the CIA to preserve any related evidence.

Leahy and Specter asked Mukasey on Dec. 10 for "a complete account of the Justice Department's own knowledge of and involvement with" the tape destruction. The two senators included a list of 16 separate questions, including whether the Justice Department had offered legal advice to the CIA about the tapes or had communicated with the White House about the issue.

Mukasey wrote to the lawmakers that Justice "has a long-standing policy of declining to provide non-public information about pending matters.

"This policy is based in part on our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence," Mukasey wrote to lawmakers.

The tape investigation is being led by Wainstein, who held his first substantive meeting on the case Wednesday with CIA inspector general's office, according to a law enforcement official.

Several Democrats have raised questions about the propriety of an inquiry run by the Justice Department, whose lawyers were involved in offering legal advice about the tapes, and the CIA inspector general, whose office reviewed the tapes before they were destroyed.

Hayden said last week that the inspector general's office examined the tapes in 2003 "as part of its look at the agency's detention and interrogation practices."

Among those whom lawmakers want to testify is the CIA official who made the decision to destroy the tapes, Jose Rodriguez. The former director of clandestine operations has obtained private counsel and is studying his options.

His attorney, Robert Bennett (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/b000382/), said: "If I determine that he has a good story, we're going to tell it. But I'm not going to let him be a pi¿ata for people with a political agenda during an election year."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.