The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was sanctioned by a federal court Monday and ordered to reimburse the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for legal fees expended trying to obtain evidence that the agency tortured terror war prisoners during the Bush administration.
Though a minor victory for the ACLU, the case was ultimately the closing of a window of opportunity to see agency officials held accountable for the abuse of prisoners and the destruction of evidence in violation of court orders.
In striking down the ACLU's request to hold the CIA in contempt, New York district Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein affirmed the agency's seeming immunity to the law, insisting the U.S. needs "our spies" in spite of their apparent actions.
As many as 92 tapes of terror war captives being tortured by CIA operatives were allegedly destroyed. Officials suggested these recordings depicted torture sessions with terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.
Along with the tapes, detailed records of the CIA's so-called "torture flights," showing the planes, destinations and even the passengers, were also said destroyed.
The destruction of these records was revealed by then-CIA Director Michael Hayden in Dec. 2007, who said the decision was made because the videos posed "a serious security risk" to the agency.
The ultimate decision to destroy the torture tapes was made by Jose Rodriguez, the former Director of the National Clandestine Service. The Department of Justice (DoJ) said in Nov. that Rodriguez would not face charges.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced in June that after a years-long investigation, the DoJ would probe the deaths of two prisoners who allegedly perished in the CIA's custody. In doing so, he said that it was also dropping possible further inquiries into allegations of torture by CIA agents.