[JURIST] US District Judge Richard W. Roberts on Thursday ordered [PDF text] the government to submit a report to the court by February 14 detailing why the CIA destroyed videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], whether other evidence connected to a Guantanamo Bay detainee's lawsuit may have been destroyed, and what steps the government has taken to preserve relevant evidence. Roberts' ruling is in response to a motion [PDF text; SCOTUSblog report] filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee Hani Abdullah asking the court to compel the government to report on its compliance with a July 2005 order [PDF text] issued by Roberts requiring the government to "preserve and maintain all evidence, documents, and information, without limitation, now or ever in respondents' possession, custody or control, regarding the individual detained petitioners" in cases brought by several detainees. Several similar motions have been brought in federal court, but Roberts' order is the first to require the government to explain its actions in destroying the tapes. Earlier this month, US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. refused to order an inquiry into the CIA's destruction of the tapes and District Judge Alvin Hellerstein is currently considering a motion [JURIST reports] brought on behalf of detainees to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying the interrogation videos.
Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] last month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. The US Justice Department has opened a criminal probe [JURIST report] into the matter, and multiple congressional inquiries are underway. AP has more.