a valentines’ day reckoning : DoJ must answer for the torture tapes’ destruction in DC court

below is the full-text of u.s. district
court judge richard w. roberts’ memorandum
order, entered yesterday. if the detainees
appearing on the torture tapes were asked
about hani abdullah [which seems highly-
likely“, in the words of judge roberts,
inasmuchas the DoJ alleged that hani
abdullah had ties to al quaeda], then
the destruction of the tapes would have
amounted to the destruction of evidence
in a criminal case, where a july 2005 order
from judge roberts required the preservation
(and disclosure, to the defendant’s lawyers) of
all such evidence.

this is significant, because judge roberts,
quite appropriately, has ruled that he need
not abdicate his authority to enforce criminal
orders in his own courtroom simply because the
DoJ (under michael mukasey) has begun an inquiry
of its own into the circumstances surrounding the
destruction of the torture tapes.

finally, our judges are straightening their backs,
and turning, face-forward, into the cold light of
what history will very likely record about these
largely-sordid moments of our criminal “justice” system.

buckle up for valentines’ day.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Civil Action No. 05-23 (RWR)

HANI SALEH RASHID ABDULLAH
et al.,

Petitioners,

v.

GEORGE W. BUSH et al.,

Respondents.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Petitioner Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah, a foreign national detained at Guantanamo Bay in the custody of the United States, has filed a motion to compel respondents to report on their compliance with a preservation order that required respondents to “preserve and maintain all evidence, documents and information, without limitation, now or ever in respondents’ possession, custody or control, regarding the individual detained petitioner[] in th[is] case[].” Mem. Order, July 18, 2005.

Respondents have acknowledged that after the preservation order was entered, they destroyed video-records of interrogations of another detainee, Abu Zubaydah, dating from the year 2002. See Abdah v. Bush, Civil Action No. 04-1254 (HHK), Hr’g Tr. at 22:7-9, Dec. 21, 2007. In his motion papers, petitioner has made a colorable showing that information obtained from Abu Zubaydah during 2002 likely included information regarding petitioner, and was therefore subject to the preservation order. (See Pet’r’s Reply ¶ 1.) He also notes his own handling in detention and raises the valid questions of whether it, too, may have been videotaped and whether any such tapes have been destroyed. (See Pet’r’s Mot. ¶¶ 3,4.)

Respondents oppose petitioner’s motion by arguing that prudence cautions against granting the motion. They do not challenge the court’s authority to enforce its own orders. See also id. at 24:4-6 (“We are not arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction to inquire into compliance with the court’s own order entered by the court in this case.”) They also do not dispute or otherwise respond directly to petitioner’s allegations that they knowingly destroyed evidence pertaining to this
petitioner that was subject to the July 18, 2005 preservation order entered in this case.
Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED that petitioner’s motion for relief be, and hereby is, GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. It is denied to the extent that it seeks in-court questioning of respondents’ witness. It is granted to the extent that it seeks a substantive report from respondents.

Respondents are ordered to file by February 14, 2008, a report detailing what they have done since the preservation order was entered in July 2005, and what they are now doing, to ensure compliance with the July 18, 2005 preservation order, and the nature of any evidence potentially subject to the protective order that has been destroyed or otherwise spoliated.

SIGNED this 24th day of January, 2008.

/s/ Richard W. Roberts

RICHARD W. ROBERTS
United States District Judge

[emphasis, above, supplied.

now, this may evoke a day of
reckoning, not unlike one, long-
ago, in an alley-garage on the
sordid side-streets of chicago
(in
lincoln park, on clark street, in
fact), on this very same day. . .

and with this post, i reach a
minor milestone: my 500th blog-
entry in under 11 months.

— nolo]

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