Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Gitmo Tape Flim-Flam

By Cernig

Compare the following two statements.

"All interrogations are videotaped"

(Lieutenant General Kevin C. Kiley, M.D.—the Surgeon General of the United States Army, “Overview of Site Visits to Afghanistan (OEF), Cuba (GTMO), and Iraq (OIF)”; Subsection 18-2d, May 2005.)

“This is not a widespread practice,” said Mr. [Geoff] Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. He said that it was up to individual military commanders whether to tape interrogations...

("Pentagon Cites Tapes Showing Interrogations", By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, New York Times, March 13, 2008.)

I'm trying to figure some way in which these two are consistent, yet it seems to me that they directly contradict each other.

I ask because today the Pentagon admitted to finding 50 lost interrogation tapes - and admits it might find more but says that such tapes were routinely destroyed after they were judged to be of no more use - despite their comprising important evidence not just for the prosecution or defense in detainee trials but also for or against allegations of torture and abuse against interrogators.

I've a problem with the paltry number of tapes too.

A recent report by Seton Hall Law noted that:
On June 9, 2005, within weeks of the release of Lieutenant General Kiley’s report, Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt produced an amended report which reviewed FBI allegations of detainee abuse at Guantánamo Bay. According to Lieutenant General Schmidt’s report, more than 24,000 interrogations had been completed at Guantánamo Bay since 2002.
And yet today the NYT reports that:
The Defense Department is conducting an extensive review of the videotaping of interrogations at military facilities from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay, and so far it has identified nearly 50 tapes, including one that showed what a military spokesman described as the forcible gagging of a terrorism suspect.

...officials said it appeared that only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of interrogations worldwide since 2001 had been recorded.

The officials said the nearly 50 tapes they identified documented interrogations of two terrorism suspects, Jose Padilla and Ali al-Marri, and were made at a Navy detention site in Charleston, S.C., where the two men have been held.
I'll pass over the question of whether gagging a detainee who you're trying to interrogate sort of defeats the purpose, for now, and just note that these newfound tapes aren't even from Gitmo - so what happened to the 24,000 tapes that must have been made there?

And why exactly are Pentagon spokespeople being so evasive about it all now, contradicting past statements and official reports?

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