Pentagon Destroys Guantanamo Evidence

The Pentagon “likely” overwrote or deleted video recordings of a Guantanamo detainee that were subject to a court preservation order, according to a Department of Defense lawyer.

In a declaration Monday night in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, associate deputy general counsel James Hourican said that “it is likely” that Yemeni detainee Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah was monitored by video recorders in the naval base set up to automatically overwrite old material when they reached capacity. As a result, he wrote, “it is likely that recordings of petitioner Abdullah were overwritten and/or deleted.”

Hourican said the footage “potentially” falls within the scope of records the government was required to preserve in a 2005 order by U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts, who is adjudicating Abdullah’s habeas petition.

Hourican’s declaration comes about a month after a Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, who oversees the detention center, described the monitoring system in another declaration. He wrote that the recorders used in at least four camps at Guantanamo automatically overwrote old material every few weeks when they reached capacity. The Department of Defense has since begun storing the material, he said.

The monitoring system was set up to “oversee activities in the camp for the purpose of ensuring good order and discipline,” Buzby wrote. He did not say whether detainee interrogations were included in the deleted footage.

Roberts ordered the Bush administration last month to submit a report detailing whether any evidence relating to Abdullah had been destroyed or spoliated. Abdullah’s lawyers requested it after the CIA disclosed last year that taped interrogations of two suspected terrorists were destroyed in 2005.

The report, filed Monday along with the declaration, says Pentagon officials found no other evidence that records were destroyed in violation of Roberts’ order. The CIA also filed a classified declaration with Roberts, apparently describing the agency’s efforts to determine its compliance with the order.

The report says that the CIA “has not exhausted its search” for records, and that officials plan to submit to Roberts its findings next month.

First reported in The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times