Monday, June 9, 2008

Did Bush Direct Destruction of Evidence in Gitmo Torture Cases?

Yesterday, via ABC News report on an AP story:
The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday.

The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.
According to a UK Guardian story today, the Pentagon is making the trying of Guantanamo prisoners in Bush's controversial military tribunals a "number one priority," assigning more military lawyers to both prosecution and defense. The tribunals have been criticized by human rights groups as denying due process rights to the accused, and for allowing the presentation of "evidence" gained via torture. This latest news seems likely to gum up their precious show trial scenario.

The story continues, via (bold emphasis added):
"By destroying handwritten notes containing 'interrogation information' and preserving only the sanitized summaries, interrogators effectively destroyed evidence of illegal treatment of detainees -- as well as evidence that could be used to contradict the statements recorded in the summaries," Kuebler said in a statement.

At hearings in Guantanamo, prosecutors have responded to Kuebler's requests for the handwritten interrogation notes by saying most appeared to have been lost or mislaid. But the SOP directive appears to suggest that those that existed were destroyed to minimize the chance interrogators ever have to explain how they extracted information....

According to Kuebler's notes, the directive says: "Once . . . created, handwritten interrogator notes may be destroyed. This mission has legal and political issues that may lead to interrogators being called to testify, keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum can minimize certain legal issues."
Kuebler has charged that destruction of the interrogation notes is a "violation of (U.S.) federal and military law." The SOP directive was included in a Pentagon operations manual that was attached to the Pentagon's Schmidt-Furlow report, which was one of a series of military investigations, mostly whitewashes, into detainee abuse. The operations manual addendum to the report was not released at the time the Schmidt-Furlow report was made public.

Tester over at TPM Cafe makes the following important points:
A. The President was informed of Prisoner abuse, but nothing was done;

B. There was a DoD policy connected with the President that ordered the destruction of evidence
As breaking news has Congressman Dennis Kucinich introducing articles of impeachment on the floor of the House of Representatives, even as I write this, the question becomes: who ordered the destruction of evidence in criminal investigations? who ordered destruction of evidence of crimes committed, such as torture? Is this not part and parcel of a long string of illegal and unconstitutional activities by the executive branch of the government, led by one George W. Bush?

I'm positive we will be hearing more about this in the days to come.

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