The CIA has responded to ACLU’s motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the terror tapes. They argue they shouldn’t be held in contempt for destroying the torture tapes for three reasons:
The videotapes were held in operational files. The Court ruled that the CIA’s obligation to search for records responsive to Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests did not extend to its operational files. Rather, the Court ordered the CIA to search investigative files of the CIA’s Office of Inspector General (“CIA OIG”) for operational records produced to or collected by CIA OIG during the course of CIA OIG’s investigation into allegations of impropriety in Iraq. The tapes were not produced to or collected by CIA OIG. Thus, the CIA’s destruction of the videotapes did not violate the Court’s orders.
Moreover, the videotapes were not responsive to Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests because the activities depicted on the videotapes were not the subject of a CIA OIG investigation of allegations of impropriety in Iraq, or any other investigation conducted by CIA OIG. Under the Central Intelligence Agency Information Act (“CIA Information Act”), the CIA’s operational records are exempt from search or review in response to FOIA requests unless an exception to the Act applies. One exception is where the records requested are the specific subject matter of an investigation by CIA OIG into allegations of impropriety or illegality in the conduct of an intelligence activity. 50 U.S.C. § 431(c)(3). Here, CIA OIG did not conduct an investigation into allegations of impropriety or illegality relating to the interrogations on the videotapes prior to their destruction. Therefore, the tapes were exempt from search and review in response to Plaintiffs’ FOIA requests up to the time of their destruction.
Further, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has initiated a criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes. That investigation is considering, inter alia, whether the destruction of the tapes was inconsistent with or violated any legal obligations, including those arising out of civil matters such as this Court’s orders. Accordingly, if the Court does not deny the contempt application outright, it should stay these proceedings pending completion of DOJ’s criminal investigation. [my emphasis]
In other words, their reasoning depends entirely on the technical status of the CIA IG investigation into detainee interrogation. The CIA submitted a declaration describing that investigation; here’s what they said. Read more