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Federal judge orders hearing on CIA destruction of interrogation videos

[JURIST] US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. said Tuesday that he will hold a hearing to consider whether the CIA's destruction of videotapes [JURIST report] showing the interrogation of terror suspects violated a 2005 court order. Lawyers representing several Guantanamo Bay detainees filed an emergency motion [PDF text; JURIST report] earlier this month asking Kennedy to look into the tapes' destruction in light of his June 2005 order in Abdah v. Bush where Kennedy directed the government to "preserve and maintain all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." Kennedy scheduled a Friday hearing [notice, PDF], though he did not explain his reasons for calling the hearing.

The US Justice Department had urged Kennedy not to proceed with an inquiry [PDF text; JURIST report] in the matter, saying that a judicial inquiry would be inappropriate "in light of the current inquiries by the political branches into the destruction of the tapes that occasioned petitioners' motion." Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] earlier this month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. Since Hayden announced that the videotapes had been destroyed, several investigations have been launched, including a joint DOJ-CIA preliminary investigation [DOJ letter; JURIST report] and multiple congressional inquiries. The Justice Department has also sought the postponement of congressional investigations while it conducts its own probe. AP has more. SCOTUSblog had additional coverage.

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