Revelations about the destruction of interrogation tapes by the CIA have altered the way the military maintains documentation regarding detainees in the prison at Guantánamo Bay and other locations, according to government documents filed in federal court this month.
In an affidavit filed in federal court on February 8, CIA Director Michael Hayden wrote that following the disclosure of the CIA tape destruction, he ordered all CIA personnel to preserve all information regarding detainees at Guantánamo and other locations. In a separate affidavit, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, commander at Guantánamo, wrote that he had changed procedures for storing video surveillance of detainees at the prison.
Buzby wrote that in early January he learned that the video surveillance of detainees—meant to "ensure good order and discipline at the camp"—had been automatically overwritten in predetermined intervals. So on January 16, Buzby put an end to the practice. "I ordered that all recording on such systems be suspended to ensure that no data currently stored thereon was lost," he wrote. Instead, he directed staff to record specific events "on demand."
Those include "forced cell extractions; medical emergencies; incidents of suspected/alleged guard misconduct; incidents of possible self-harm or injuries to detainees; significant damage to government property; mass disturbances by detainees; and any other similar events," according to the affidavit. "The on-demand recording now used contains data that continues to be preserved and the guard staff has been directed to preserve any such recording," Buzby wrote.
However, material from the old system does not go back very far. Some had been replaced and in some instances, officials are unable to tell whether the data are still available on previous videos, Buzby wrote. None of the known recordings go back before late November. For instance, at Camp 4, the recording system was disabled around May 18, 2006, because of an investigation and not put into service again, according to Buzby's affidavit. Among the aspects of life under video surveillance, Buzby wrote, were recordings of meetings between detainees and their lawyers. But he noted that those recordings would have been automatically overwritten, like video anywhere else in the prison.