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CIA Admits Destroying Nearly 100 Interrogation Tapes

The CIA today acknowledged in a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it destroyed 92 tapes of harsh interrogations of detainees related to the “war on terror”.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit seeking the information more than five years ago, and more than one year ago, the ACLU tried to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the videotapes, which a court had ordered the agency to turn over. The court never ruled on that motion, in part because there is a pending criminal investigation into the CIA’s destruction of the videotapes.

The acknowledgment today by the CIA that it destroyed at least 92 tapes comes just after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week announced that it would be conducting a review of the CIA’s interrogation practices since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“This letter provides further evidence for holding the CIA in contempt of court,” said ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh in a statement released today. “The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court’s order. Our contempt motion has been pending in court for over a year now – it is time to hold the CIA accountable for its flagrant disregard for the rule of law.”

According to the letter the government filed with the U.S. District Court in New York City today, the CIA will provide a proposed schedule for releasing more information about the materials it destroyed — originally requested by the court last August — by Friday, March 6. The letter appears to be an attempt to comply with the court’s order now, because a previous stay issued on the motion to hold the CIA in contempt expired in February.

In other words, if the CIA doesn’t comply now, District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein of may actually hold the agency in contempt of court.

The noose is tightening.

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