Torture Tapes Destruction…Another Crime Unpunished

Thursday, November 11, 2010
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.
The Obama administration has decided not to pursue criminal charges against CIA officials who destroyed more than 90 videotapes showing the torture of suspected terrorists during the early Bush years. Special Prosecutor John Durham with the U.S. Department of Justice said he did not have enough evidence to secure an indictment against those responsible for the tapes’ destruction.
Ninety-two tapes were destroyed in November 2005 under the orders of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the CIA’s former head of clandestine service. The videos reportedly showed the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the first two detainees held in secret overseas prisons who also were subjected to waterboarding.
One obstacle that Durham ran into during his investigation was that Rodriguez received approval for his order from agency attorneys, thus limiting the clandestine service chief’s exposure to being prosecuted.
Durham is continuing to investigate the matter of the tapes and could still charge current and former CIA officers and lawyers with making false statements to a grand jury.
But the decision not to pursue indictments upset many human rights advocates, especially as it came immediately after George W. Bush’s unapologetic remarks about the use of torture by his administration. “It is beyond shocking that a former U.S. president can publicly claim responsibility for torture and the next day the U.S. government can say it will not pursue charges for destroying evidence of that torture,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch. “It sends the ugly message that there are no legal consequences in the United States for committing the most heinous of international crimes.”
The destruction of the tapes was carried out just days after The Washington Post, on November 2, 2005, first reported the existence of CIA “black sites” where suspected terrorists were interrogated. CIA cables six and seven days later show field agents asking permission from CIA headquarters in Washington to destroy the 92 tapes, and another dated November 9 confirms their destruction.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
No Criminal Charges Sought Over C.I.A. Tapes (by Mark Mazzetti and Charlie Savage, New York Times)


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