Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed as part of the 2010 Defense Authorization conference report a new requirement that would mandate the videorecording of all interrogations of anyone in a Defense Department facility:
Congress is moving to require videotaping of interrogations of detainees held by the military, a step proponents say will prevent abuse and create a valuable intelligence record.
The provision, which the House passed on Thursday as part of the 2010 Defense Authorization Act conference report, would apply to interrogations of anyone held at a Defense Department facility. Because the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret overseas prisons have been closed, it would most likely cover terrorism suspects whether they were questioned by a military or a C.I.A. officer.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who first proposed the videotaping measure, said that it will allow the government to “continue the process of putting our detainee policies back on a sound legal footing while maintaining our ability to get actionable intelligence.”
Indeed, Holt’s measure would do much to curb abuse in the interrogation system. The New York Times notes that although the Guantanamo Bay prison camp — the site of many human rights abuses — contained video recording equipment, “it was rarely used.”
Under the previous administration, officials simply destroyed recordings of abusive interrogations. Following an ACLU lawsuit earlier this year, the CIA admitted to destroying 92 videotaped recordings of abusive interrogations, prompting ACLU attorney Amrit Singh to accuse the agency of engaging in a “systematic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations.”
The measure is also incredibly important at a time when many civil liberties advocates are concerned that the detention camp at Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan has become the same sort of “legal black hole” that Guantanamo once was, with prisoners facing poor conditions and little in the way of due process.