Thursday, January 17, 2008
Could a civil lawsuit in New York be the beginning of the end of the Bush administration's rampage through the U.S. Constitution? Today, a federal judge said he thinks the government was lying when its attorneys told the court there were no records or transcripts of interrogation tapes of two suspected al-Qaida terrorists that were destroyed in 2005. Judge Alvin Hellerstein's remarks came during a hearing in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups contended the government illegally refused to turn over records requested by the organization under the Freedom of Information Act. Hellerstein said in court that was "hard to believe" that there were no existing records, according to the Reuters international news service. "It would seem to me, in fact, that you were gulled and the court was gulled," Hellerstein told Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Skinner, Reuters said. Hellerstein also said he would likely find the CIA had not complied with a court order but not find it in contempt. The judge still could subpoena CIA officials to explain what happened to records of the tapes, which reportedly show the use of harsh interrogation techniques in questioning of Abu Zabaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a secret prison in Thailand. With Congress still cowed by the Bush administration's aggressive seizure of power since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, it is left to the courts to restore constitutional balance to the U.S. government.