Leahy still awaits release of interrogation tapes

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy says he’s very disappointed that the Defense Department hasn’t turned over video tapes of alleged prisoner abuse at the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Leahy, who requested these tapes last week, says he’s concerned that the Bush administration may be trying to cover up this issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) It’s estimated that approximately 650 people who’ve been classified by the United States as enemy combatants are being held at the Detention Center that is operated by the U.S. Army. Virtually all of the detainees were captured in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last two years and were brought to this base to be interrogated.

Because they are considered enemy combatants, the detainees are not subject to the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who’s played an active role in getting the Defense Department to release tapes of prison abuse in Iraq, says he’s become aware of the fact that the U.S. Army routinely taped the interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Leahy has asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to release these tapes to a number of congressional committees, but the Defense Department has not complied with the senator’s request:

(Leahy) “I have not been satisfied with the response from the Department of Defense. It’s always, ‘we’re studying this, we’re checking it out, we’re trying to find it.’ My god, this is the most powerful well-funded military in the world. If they’re saying they can’t find something that’s right within their own files, right within their own hands, it makes you wonder.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says he’s going to become very suspicious if the Bush administration doesn’t make these tapes available in the near future:

(Leahy) “The more this goes on, the more you worry about some kind of cover up. The most important thing is to get this out in the open, but you also start hearing more and more things. You hear about the memo that came from the White House that refers to the Geneva Convention as quaint and suggests that maybe we don’t have to follow this. I think they’re worried the trail leads all the way back to the White House and nobody wants to be the one who blows the whistle on that.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says the incidents of prison abuse in Iraq have undermined this country’s moral authority in the Middle East and he says he’s concerned that the policies of the administration have put American soldiers in greater danger in Iraq.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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