CIA Destroyed Videos Showing Interrogations
Friday, December 7, 2007
The CIA made videotapes in 2002 of its officers administering harsh interrogation techniques to two al-Qaeda suspects but destroyed the tapes three years later, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden said yesterday.
Captured on tape were interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and a second high-level al-Qaeda member who was not identified, according to two intelligence officials. Zubaydah has been identified by U.S. officials familiar with the interrogations as one of three al-Qaeda suspects who were subjected to "waterboarding," a technique that simulates drowning, while in CIA custody.
The tapes were made to document any confessions the two men might make and to serve as an internal check on how the interrogations were conducted, senior intelligence officials said.
All the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 on the order of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the CIA's director of clandestine operations, officials said. The destruction came after the Justice Department had told a federal judge in the case of al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui that the CIA did not possess videotapes of a specific set of interrogations sought by his attorneys. A CIA spokesman said yesterday that the request would not have covered the destroyed tapes.
The tapes also were not provided to the Sept. 11 commission, the independent panel that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which demanded a wide array of material and relied heavily on classified interrogation transcripts in piecing together its narrative of events.
The startling disclosures came on the same day that House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on legislation that would prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics by the CIA and bring intelligence agencies in line with rules followed by the U.S. military.
The measure, which needs approval from the full House and Senate, would effectively set a government-wide standard for legal interrogations by explicitly outlawing the use of simulated drowning, forced nudity, hooding, military dogs and other harsh tactics against prisoners by any U.S. intelligence agency.
The proposed ban sets the stage for a potential election-season standoff between congressional Democrats and the Bush administration, which has fought vigorously on Capitol Hill and in the courts to preserve intelligence agencies' ability to use aggressive interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto warned that the administration had threatened to veto similar legislation proposed in the House.
In a note to agency employees yesterday, Hayden said that the decision to destroy the videotapes was made to protect the identities of CIA officers who were clearly identifiable on them.
"Beyond their lack of intelligence value -- as the interrogation sessions had already been exhaustively detailed in written channels -- and the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them, the tapes posed a security risk," Hayden said. "Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them to and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and it sympathizers."
Hayden said he decided to discuss the tapes publicly because of news media interest and the possibility that "we may see misinterpretations of the facts in the days ahead." The New York Times said on its Web site that it had informed the CIA on Wednesday night that it was preparing a story about the destroyed tapes.