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Federal judge sets timetable for release of reports on CIA tapes destruction

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Friday ordered the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] to release reports on the destruction of 92 videotapes [JURIST news archive] of high value terrorism suspect interrogations within the next 30 days or alternatively, explain why it should not do so. Judge Alvin Hellerstein [official profile] directed the CIA to disclose the reports along with a list of witnesses as part of the ongoing lawsuit [ACLU materials] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] in an effort to access government materials on the interrogations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. The ACLU has argued that the destruction of the videotapes violated a 2004 order [ACLU press release] by Hellerstein which instructed the CIA to turn over all records pertaining to the treatment of detainees, and that the CIA should be held in contempt for failing to preserve the records. A criminal probe [JURIST report] into the destruction of the videotapes is currently ongoing.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] acknowledged the CIA destroyed [letter, PDF] 92 videotapes of terrorism suspect interrogations, in response to an August 2008 judicial order [text, PDF] that the CIA turn over information regarding the tapes or provide specific justifications on why it could not release the information. Additionally, the DOJ admitted in court documents [text, PDF], that twelve of the 92 videotapes destroyed by the CIA [JURIST report] contained evidence of "enhanced interrogation techniques." The ACLU brought its lawsuit [CCR backgrounder] after the October 2003 request filed by the ACLU under FOIA for information pertaining to US held detainees in overseas facilities received in answer only a set of media talking points used by the Department of State.

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