A federal judge won’t hold the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of detainee interrogations that included the use of a torture technique known as waterboarding, ruling instead Wednesday that the spy agency merely committed “transgressions” for its failure to abide by his court order.
Punishing the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York ruled, “would serve no beneficial purpose.” (.pdf)
Hellerstein wrote that CIA officials responsible for producing the tapes in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit might “not have been aware of the videotapes’ existence before they were destroyed.” The judge also said officials who ordered the tapes’ destruction in 2005 might not have been “aware of court orders requiring identification or production of the videotapes.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the long-running FOIA case and asked for a contempt finding, had requested that Judge Hellerstein order depositions and discovery to ascertain if CIA officials destroyed the 92 videotapes of post-9/11 interrogations of terrorism suspects after they had notice of court orders to produce them.
The judge declined.
“I will not allow additional discovery,” the judge said. He added that the CIA has admitted that some of the videos showed the CIA using waterboarding torture techniques. Footage on one tape, he said, had shown an interrogator who “continuously applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose.” The Obama administration has declined to prosecute CIA officials for torture, citing legal memos that authorized the techniques.