- College algebra to be removed from Southeast required curriculum (10/10/17)1
- State declares test results for schools invalid (10/4/17)2
- Child-custody advocate: State law needs fix to provide parents with more equal custody (10/12/17)
- One of Cape's oldest mom-and-pop restaurants opens in new location (10/10/17)
- Past Rowdy the Redhawk mascot's identity revealed (10/15/17)
- Cancer will 'change your life, but it doesn't have to rule it' (10/8/17)
- Police chief, council: Cape Girardeau faces growing gun violence (10/17/17)4
- Bills addressing equal child custody to be filed, legislators say (10/13/17)
- Developer asks court to OK tax district board for improvements near Hobby Lobby (10/17/17)4
- Sikeston singer moves on with 'The Voice' (10/16/17)
Judge orders hearing on whether administration violated court order by destroying CIA videos
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration must answer questions about the destruction of CIA interrogation videos of two al-Qaida suspects, a federal judge said Tuesday, rejecting the government's efforts to keep the courts out of the investigation.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy ordered Justice Department lawyers to appear before him at 11 a.m. Friday to discuss whether destroying the tapes, which showed two al-Qaida suspects being questioned, violated a court order.
The Justice Department has urged Congress and the courts to back off, saying its investigators need time to complete their inquiry. Government attorneys say the courts don't have the authority to get involved in the matter and could jeopardize the case.
For now, at least, Kennedy disagreed. Attorneys in unrelated cases, meanwhile, began pressing other judges to demand information about the tapes.
In June 2005, Kennedy ordered the Bush 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, 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 the 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."
Also Tuesday, lawyers for a man convicted of terrorism charges alongside Jose Padilla asked a federal judge in Miami to force the government to turn over any remaining evidence regarding Zubaydah's interrogation. Prosecutors have acknowledged that Zubaydah provided information identifying Padilla as an al-Qaida operative working on a purported "dirty bomb" plot, leading to his May 2002 arrest at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
Lawyer Ken Swartz said information about his client, convicted terrorism supporter Adham Amin Hassoun, might be found in those interrogations.
In a third case, this one involving another Guantanamo Bay detainee, attorney Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice asked U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington to schedule a hearing. Kessler's order, filed in July 2005, is almost identical to Kennedy's, and Hafetz says he worries key evidence was destroyed.
The Justice Department had no comment on Kennedy's decision to hold a hearing. Its lawyers are working with the CIA to investigate the destruction of the tapes and urged Kennedy to give them space and time to let them investigate.
Remes had urged Kennedy not to comply.
"Plainly the government wants only foxes guarding this henhouse," Remes wrote in court documents this week.
The Bush administration has taken a similar strategy in its dealings with Congress on the issue. Last week, the Justice Department urged lawmakers to hold off on questioning witnesses and demanding documents because that evidence is part of a joint CIA-Justice Department investigation.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey also refused to give Congress details of the government's investigation into the matter Friday, saying doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry was vulnerable to political pressure.
Kennedy served as a federal prosecutor during the Nixon and Ford administrations until he was named a federal magistrate judge in 1976. President Carter appointed him to be a local Washington judge and President Clinton appointed him to the federal bench.