Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Interrogation Tapes Still To Be Found

By Cernig

Senator Ted Kennedy wrote to SecDef Bob Gates on the 14th asking him for details of all interrogation tapes in their possession - and details of any and all tapes destroyed. His letter says, in part:

recently learned that the Department of Defense has been conducting a review of the videotaping of interrogations at military facilities from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay, and the Department reportedly has identified some 50 tapes. I’m disappointed, however, to learn that the Defense Intelligence Agency claims to have routinely destroyed tapes of interrogations conducted in the past seven years.

A recent study, "Captured on Tape: Interrogation and Videotaping of Detainees in Guantánamo," by Professor Mark Denbeaux and his colleagues, used publicly available documents to show that more than 24,000 interrogations have been conducted at Guantánamo since 2002 and that every one of these interrogations was videotaped by the government. Meticulous logs were kept of information related to interrogations at Guantánamo, so it should be possible to identify how many videotapes still exist and how many have been destroyed.

I hope you agree that no further tapes should be destroyed, and I request that you take appropriate steps to guarantee the preservation of all interrogation tapes in the Department’s effective control, as well as any transcripts or documents related to the interrogations that may exist. These tapes and documents will likely be relevant both to the adjudication of the status of detainees and to congressional oversight of the treatment of detainees.

I ask that you inform me of the number of tapes in the possession of the Department of Defense and your plans for preserving them. I also ask that you preserve any transcripts of interrogations and any records relevant to tapes that may have been destroyed. Please inform me of the existence of such transcripts and records and of the specific steps you will take to preserve them. I also ask that you provide a report on all interrogation tapes the Department is aware of that have been destroyed or are no longer accessible.

I’m sure you recognize the special importance of the questions raised by the interrogation videotapes and the need for Congress to obtain complete information, so that it can perform its constitutional oversight and legislative responsibilities.
It's nice to see someone on the Hill is keeping an eye on this issue, especially when there's been a great deal of official evasion on the issue and a massive disconnect between public statements by DoD officials and military officers on how many tapes were made. The Surgeon General has stated in an official report that "all interrogations are videotaped" while the Pentagon press secretary has told journalists that "this is not a widespread practice” and that it was up to individual commanders whether to tape interrogations. Recently, the DoD "found" fifty interrogation tapes it seemingly didn't know it had but Seton Hall Law experts estimate that at least 24,000 tapes were made in total.

But one of the authors of the Seton Hall report tells me that another official source points positively to far more widespread taping than evasive stetements recently have suggested. Asked for comment, Michael Ricciardelli writes that "As I understand it, all fifty tapes the Pentagon has admitted to having found come from the brig in Charleston. The data indicates that an inventory of other military installations would prove fruitful."
there is another high level Governmental report which confirms the use of video recording of interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because our report focuses rather exclusively upon video recordings in Guantanamo, and we found this other report very late in the process, the information appears only as a footnote therein used to support the use of video recording of interrogations as an overall Govermental Policy.

On July 21, 2004 the Inspector General of The Army issued a wide ranging report on Detainee Operations titled "Detainee Operations Inspection."

Regarding interrogation in Afghanistan and Iraq the Inspector General of the Army stated the following in Chapter 4, "Interrogation Operations," Finding 6, (P.35-36 of Report; Adobe pagination of the document as found on the Pentagon web site, P.48-49.)

"The DAIG Team [Department of the Army Inspector General] observed 2 detainee facilities using digital recording devices, 1 in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq. Because interrogations are confrontational, a monitored video recording of the process can be an effective check against breaches of the laws of land warfare and Army policy. It further protects the interrogator against allegations of mistreatment by detainees and provides a permanent record of the encounter that can be reviewed to improve the accuracy of intelligence collection. All facilities conducting interrogations would benefit from routine use of video recording equipment."

I would submit that the above Finding of the Department of the Army Inspector General substantiates two important points: 1) It expressly states that in Iraq and Afghanistan, as of July 21, 2004, video recording of interrogations occurred in at least "2 detainee facilities," "1 in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq;" and 2) After July 21, 2004, interrogations which were not videotaped, were not videotaped contrary to the express and offical recommendation of the Inspector General of the Army and the Secretary of the Army who expressly approved such findings.

Importantly, as the Inspector General found, video recording of Interrogations "provides a permanent record of the encounter that can be reviewed to improve the accuracy of intelligence collection." [Emphasis mine - C]
Perhaps Senator Kennedy could call Gates, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morell and senior officers before an investigative hearing and ask them why exactly their statements show that the Inspector General of the Army and the Secretary of the Army's advice was ignored, if indeed it was, and more importantly....who had the authority to order that their advice be ignored?