Inquiry Sought On CIA Tapes
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Democratic lawmakers yesterday angrily demanded a Justice Department investigation into the CIA's decision to destroy videotapes of harsh interrogation tactics used on two terrorism suspects.
The White House said that President Bush was unaware of the tapes or their destruction until this week, but administration sources acknowledged last night that longtime Bush aide Harriet E. Miers knew of the tapes' existence and told CIA officials that she opposed their destruction.
The Senate intelligence committee also announced the start of its own probe into the destroyed videotapes, said Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.).
"We do not know if there was intent to obstruct justice, an attempt to prevent congressional scrutiny, or whether they were simply destroyed out of concern they could be leaked," Rockefeller said. "Whatever the intent, we must get to the bottom of it."
The uproar in Congress followed Thursday's disclosure by CIA Director Michael V. Hayden that the agency had videotaped the interrogations of two al-Qaeda suspects in 2002 and destroyed the tapes three years later. Hayden and other officials said one of the detainees was Abu Zubaida, a close associate of Osama bin Laden.
The other was identified last night by a knowledgeable U.S. official as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was captured in November 2002 in the United Arab Emirates. Nashiri complained earlier this year, in documents filed for his military tribunal hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he had been tortured into confessing to various terrorist acts and plots. Several alleged acts of torture are redacted from the document.
It is not clear which tactics are shown on the videotapes. Abu Zubaida has been identified by intelligence officials as one of three detainees subjected to waterboarding, an aggressive interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
Hayden said in a letter to CIA personnel that the decision to destroy the tapes was made out of concern that interrogators could be identified if the tapes were leaked.
But Democratic lawmakers, defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates scoffed at that explanation yesterday, arguing that the disclosure suggested an attempt by the CIA to cover up possibly illegal conduct in the face of specific requests for records, including video or audio tapes, from federal courts and from the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) urged Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey in a letter yesterday to investigate "whether CIA officials who destroyed these videotapes and withheld information about their existence from official proceedings violated the law."
Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the department was reviewing Durbin's request but had no other comment.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) called Hayden's reasoning a "pathetic excuse" and said, "You'd have to burn every other document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory."