Achilles Heel?

Posted on Tuesday 18 December 2007

A federal judge has ordered a hearing on whether the Bush administration violated a court order by destroying CIA interrogation videos of two Al Qaeda suspects. U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy rejected calls from the Justice Department to stay out of the matter. He ordered lawyers to appear before him Friday morning.

In June 2005, Kennedy ordered the administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay." Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos. The recordings involved suspected terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The Justice Department argued that the videos weren’t covered by the order because the two men were being held in secret CIA prisons overseas, not at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

David Remes, a lawyer who represents Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay, asked for the court hearing. He said the government was obligated to keep the tapes and he wants to be sure other evidence is not being destroyed.  "We want more than just the government’s assurances. The government has given these assurances in the past and they’ve proven unreliable," Remes said. "The recent revelation of the CIA tape destruction indicates that the government cannot be trusted to preserve evidence."

Kennedy did not say why he was ordering the hearing or what he planned to ask. Even if the judge accepts the argument that government did not violate his order, he still could raise questions about obstruction or spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence in "pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation." The Justice Department did not immediately comment. Its lawyers are working with the CIA to investigate the destruction of the tapes and had urged Kennedy to give them time to investigate.

Remes urged Kennedy not to comply. "Plainly the government wants only foxes guarding this henhouse," Remes wrote in court documents this week…
This is typical of the Bush Administration’s picking at words, living in created loopholes. Well, at last, Judge Kennedy isn’t having any of this kind of dancing with the law. Three cheers for Judge Kennedy. It’s the time when whistle-blowers, honest judges, others who’ve kept their mouths shut and gone along with these absurdities begin to push back. Wait, here’s another example:

After waging an all-out battle against the Bush administration and leaders of his own party, Senator Chris Dodd achieved a legislative victory on Monday, halting President Bush’s attempt to rush a Senate vote on a bill granting retroative amnesty to companies accused of illegally spying on American citizens.

"Today we have scored a victory for American civil liberties and sent a message to President Bush that we will not tolerate his abuse of power and veil of secrecy," Dodd said in a statement distributed by his presidential campaign. "The President should not be above the rule of law, nor should the telecom companies who supported his quest to spy on American citizens," he added…
As gloomy as we all feel about the effectiveness of the Bush Administration’s ability to block investigation, there are some patches of blue. I simply refuse to believe that these two despicable men will get away with this insanity. Sooner or later, Achilles Heel will become apparent. I want it to be with the outing of Valerie Plame and the U.S. Attorney firings, but right now, I’d settle for anything.

There is no invulnerable fortress…

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