One of the signs that war criminals acknowledge that what they are doing is wrong is their destruction of the evidence. When high officials in any government are determined to lose or destroy evidence of interrogations, it's a pretty good sign that something is awry. And the key evidence that would illustrate the torture of Zubaydah and KSM would be videos of the torture sessions. Sure enough, these were destroyed.
In 2005, while head of the Clandestine Service, [Jose A.] Rodriguez ordered that video tape recordings of two 2002 CIA interrogations be destroyed... The tapes reportedly showed two men held in CIA custody, Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, being subjected to a program of 'enhanced' interrogation techniques which included a procedure called "waterboarding". Critics allege these methods amount to torture and the tapes were evidence both protected by court order and the 9/11 Commission.
Although Rodriguez's record has come under scrutiny after it was reported that the destruction of the videotapes was allegedly in defiance of orders from then-CIA Director Porter Goss, he has never been reprimanded...
Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst familiar with Rodriguez and the tapes, commented in a December 23, 2007 Sunday Times story that "(i)t looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House.” He also alleged it is “highly likely” that President George W. Bush saw one of the videos.
Did Bush watch one of these torture videos? Can we ask? But I also want to remind readers that this is not the only instance of key evidence of war crimes being lost by the government.
The key case of Jose Padilla, an American citizen, also hinged on evidence of his interrogation. Padilla, so far as we know, was not waterboarded, but he was subject to all the other "enhanced interrogation" techniques. And the hard evidence of those interrogations also mysteriously vanished:
The missing DVD dates from March 2, 2004. It contains a video of the last interrogation session of Padilla, then a declared 'enemy combatant' under an order from President Bush, while he was being held in military custody at a U.S. Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. But in recent days, in the course of an unusual court hearing about Padilla's mental condition, a government lawyer disclosed to a surprised courtroom that the Defense Intelligence Agency which had custody of the evidence was no longer able to locate the DVD. As a result, it was not included in a packet of classified DVDs that was recently turned over to defense lawyers under orders from Judge Cooke.
The disclosure that the Pentagon had lost a potentially important piece of evidence in one of the U.S. government's highest-profile terrorism cases was met with claims of incredulity by some defense lawyers and human-rights groups monitoring the case. "This is the kind of thing you hear when you’re litigating cases in Egypt or Morocco or Karachi," said John Sifton, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch, one of a number of groups that has criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of Padilla. "It is simply not credible that they would have lost this tape. The administration has shown repeatedly they are more interested in covering up abuses than getting to the bottom of whether people were abused."
What more do we really need to know? And when is this country going to get serious about the war crimes perpetrated by its own government?
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