Monday, December 10, 2007

Destroying the evidence

During the last days of the East German regime in 1989, agents of the Stasi worked franticly to destroy their archives. They knew that the regime would not last long, and that their carefully collected files could be used as evidence in future prosecutions. So they sent it to the shredders. Now, it seems that the CIA is doing the same, destroying videos of the interrogations of suspected terrorists. Ostensibly, this was done to protect the identities of the CIA operatives involved. In reality, given what was done to those prisoners - stripping, freezing, denial of medication, and waterboarding, all of which is clearly torture (even in US eyes, at least when other people are doing it) - it was done in order to protect them being prosecuted for torture.

Unfortunately for the CIA, it seems they didn't cover their tracks well enough; they're now being investigated for obstruction of justice. Worse, it seems that the tapes' destruction could derail several terrorism cases, and even see the terrorism convictions of Zacarias Moussaoui and Jose Padilla reversed due to gross prosecutorial misconduct.

Meanwhile in the UK the lawyer for one Guantanamo detainee (Binyam Mohammed, whose sickening account of his torture is here) is alleging that the CIA has photographic evidence conclusively proving his client was tortured:

Clive Stafford-Smith, the legal director of Reprieve representing Mr Mohammed, said that he also knows the identity of the agents who were present when his client was allegedly beaten and tortured. Writing to Mr Miliband, he said: "Given the opportunity, we can prove that the evidence was the fruit of torture. Indeed, we can prove that a photographic record was made of this by the CIA. Through diligent investigation we know when the CIA took pictures of Mr Mohammed's brutalised genitalia, we know the identity of the CIA agents who were present including the person who took the pictures (we know both their false identities and their true names), and we know what those pictures show."
Given that Reprieve is talking about prosecuting the CIA agents responsible, I expect the CIA will be firing up the shredders as quickly as possible.