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CIA Destroyed Videos Showing Interrogations
Agency officials declined to describe the contents of the tapes, but knowledgeable U.S. officials said they depicted hours of interrogations of the two men, both of whom were subjected to aggressive interrogation methods. Whether the tapes show waterboarding or any other specific techniques is not clear.
The existence of the tapes was revealed to congressional oversight committees, and Congress was also informed about the decision to destroy the tapes, two senior intelligence officials said. The CIA was headed by former GOP congressman Porter J. Goss at the time.
But Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said in a statement last night that lawmakers did not learn about the destruction of the tapes for another year.
"While we were provided with very limited information about the existence of the tapes, we were not consulted on their usage nor the decision to destroy the tapes," Rockefeller said.
Civil liberties advocates denounced the CIA's decision to destroy the tapes, saying the agency should have known by 2005 that the actions depicted on them were potentially the subject of litigation and congressional investigations.
Jameel Jaffer, a national security lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the tapes were destroyed at a time when a federal court had ordered the CIA to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU seeking records related to interrogations.
"The CIA appears to have deliberately destroyed evidence that would have allowed its agents to be held accountable for the torture of prisoners," Jaffer said. "They are tapes that should have been released to the courts and Congress, but the CIA apparently believes that its agents are above the law."
Whether the agency faces potential legal jeopardy depends on timing -- specifically, whether investigations into the interrogation practices had been launched when the tapes were destroyed, said A. John Radsan, a former federal prosecutor and CIA assistant general counsel.
"Once an investigation has begun -- whether it's an attorney general or an inspector general investigation -- it's much more problematic to have destroyed any kinds of documents or tapes that fall within the scope of the investigation," Radsan said.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Alexandria ordered the CIA in 2003 to turn over tapes of terrorists whose testimony might be relevant to Moussaoui's defense. Moussaoui briefly trained to become one of the hijackers in the Sept. 11 attacks but was taken into custody before they occurred.
The Justice Department revealed in a letter to Brinkema and an appeals court judge in October that the CIA's previous claims had been wrong and that it had found two videotapes and one audiotape of unidentified detainee interrogations. Those tapes still exist, prosecutors said in a court filing.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the tapes acknowledged by Hayden "did not involve anyone judged relevant by the court in the Moussaoui proceedings."