The US administration is pushing forward in its attempts to make torture acceptable. Yesterday, John Kiriakou, a retired CIA agent, received widespread coverage when admitting that water-boarding was probably torture, and then went on to defend its use.
This is of course only one of the unspecified torture techniques authorised in an executive order signed by President Bush in July 2007. The order stated that the CIA was allowed to conduct a special “program of detention and interrogation”.
However, the CIA is under some pressure, with its head, Gen Michael Hayden, testifying to two key congressional intelligence committees about the deliberate destruction of two video tapes of interrogations carried out in 2002. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union had this to say:
“The destruction of these tapes suggests an utter disregard for the rule of law. It was plainly a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence that could have been used to hold CIA agents accountable for the torture of prisoners. Both Congress and the courts have repeatedly demanded that this evidence be turned over, but apparently the CIA believes that its agents are above the law.”
The destruction of these tapes appears to be part of an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing executive authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The ACLU is in the midst of a legal challenge calling for the release of three documents issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that are believed to have authorized the CIA to use extremely harsh interrogation methods. The memos, which were written in May of 2005, were not included in the government’s response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all documents pertaining to the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The government also withheld the documents from key senators during a congressional inquiry.
Update: The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a motion asking a federal judge to hold the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in contempt, charging that the agency flouted a court order when it destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the harsh interrogation of prisoners in its custody.