The Central Intelligence Agency will not be held in civil contempt for its 2005 destruction of videotapes showing two terror suspects being questioned by agents using waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques. Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said yesterday that the CIA has largely complied with requests by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act for documents on the destruction of 92 tapes of the interrogation of two top al-Qaida figures. The controversial tapes were destroyed at the direction of a high-level CIA official at a time when Judge Hellerstein had ordered the preservation of materials related to interrogations sought in American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Defense, 04-cv-04151.

Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons, arguing for the ACLU, told the judge at a hearing yesterday that civil contempt would be a “remedy based upon the notion that anybody, no matter who, is above the law” and “would set forth the court’s view” that the court has been “mistreated.” Saying, “How come I don’t feel that,” the judge credited the CIA for obeying his orders for production, including its compliance in handing over hundreds of documents reconstructing the interrogations and internal CIA deliberations over whether to destroy the tapes.

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