September 20, 2020

Feds fight disclosure of docs on destruction of CIA tapes


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Ceremonial Swearing-In Of Leon Panetta Is Held At CIA HeadquartersBy Zoe Tillman, From Legal Times, @zoetillman

The U.S. Department of Justice filed papers on Tuesday opposing the release of documents detailing an investigation into destroyed videotapes depicting CIA interrogations as well as a review of the lawfulness of certain interrogations.

In 2008, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey ordered an investigation into the destruction of the tapes. He later expanded the investigation to cover whether CIA interrogations at certain sites overseas were lawful. No criminal charges were filed.

The New York Times filed Freedom of Information Act requests for documents related to those investigations. The newspaper filed a lawsuit in May challenging the denial of its requests in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Justice Department filed its opposition papers on Tuesday—the same day that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee released sections of a confidential report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques on detainees.

Lawyers for the government argued that the documents The New York Times sought, including memos analyzing whether to bring criminal charges and notes about witness interviews, were privileged. An internal memo about the investigation into the destroyed tapes, for example, didn’t lose its protected status once the department announced it wasn’t pursuing criminal charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeannette Vargas wrote.

DOJ lawyers said in their papers:

“Prosecutors routinely prepare such prosecution and declination memoranda, free in the knowledge that they can candidly assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case without fear that their analyses will be exposed to public scrutiny once DOJ announces whether it will bring charges.”

The federal prosecutor assigned by Mukasey to lead the investigation, John Durham, filed a declaration on Tuesday stating that the internal reports about the interrogations investigation didn’t contain any “policy recommendations or deteriminations.”

“Rather, I analyzed the issues presented from the viewpoint of a prosecutor, assessing whether there existed sufficient evidence to warrant filing criminal charges. I expected that these reports would remain confidential, and did not disseminate them to any person or entity other than to the offices of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General,” Durham wrote. He’s served since 2008 as counsel to the U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

The New York Times is represented by its in-house legal department. The case is before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

IMAGE: CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images/EdStock/

For more on this story go to:–Tapes#ixzz3Lc3BCwps


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