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Waterboarding Recounted

John Kiriakou said the waterboarding of an top al-Qaeda suspect provided useful information but he now thinks
John Kiriakou said the waterboarding of an top al-Qaeda suspect provided useful information but he now thinks "Americans are better than that." (Abc News)

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Agency officials have said they briefed intelligence committee leaders from both parties over the course of two years on interrogation techniques. Officials said the briefings included mention of the tapes, but none of the lawmakers asked to view them.

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U.S. intelligence officials confirmed that Kiriakou was a CIA employee involved in the capture and questioning of Abu Zubaida. Kiriakou, a 14-year veteran of the CIA who worked in both the analysis and operations divisions, left the agency in 2004 and works as a consultant for a private Washington-based firm.

After the hospital interviews bore no fruit, Abu Zubaida was flown to a secret CIA prison, where the interrogation duties fell to a team trained in aggressive tactics, including waterboarding. Shortly before the transfer, Kiriakou said he left Pakistan for Washington, where he said he continued to monitor the interrogation through classified cables and private communications with colleagues.

Kiriakou said he did not know that the interrogations were videotaped, although there often were closed-circuit video systems in the rooms where questioning took place. He said he also had no knowledge of the decision to destroy videotapes of the interrogations. Officials said there are hundreds of hours of recordings, but most are of Abu Zubaida alone in his cell recovering from his injuries.

The circumstances surrounding Abu Zubaida's interrogation and treatment are still murky and fiercely disputed. FBI agents have opposed the use of coercive techniques as counterproductive and unreliable; intelligence officials have defended the tactics as valuable.

President Bush and others have portrayed Abu Zubaida as a crucial and highly placed terrorist, but some intelligence and law enforcement sources have said he did little more than help with logistics for al-Qaeda leaders and their associates.

In documents prepared for a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, where he is still held, Abu Zubaida asserted that he was tortured by the CIA, and that he told his questioners whatever they wanted to hear to make the torture stop.

At the time the tapes were destroyed, several federal judges had issued court orders requiring the CIA and other government agencies to preserve records related to the interrogation and detention of alleged terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks. Some attorneys are seeking new orders for preserving the records.

In one case, attorneys for Yemeni national Mohmoad Abdah alleged in a motion filed Sunday that the CIA may have violated an order issued in June 2005 by U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. in Washington. Kennedy told the government to "preserve and maintain all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Because Abu Zubaida had provided information that led to the capture of several Guantanamo Bay detainees, defense attorneys argue that any recordings of his interrogation should have been preserved.

"The revelation that the CIA destroyed these videotapes raises grave concerns about the government's compliance with the preservation order entered by this Court," wrote Abdah's lawyers, David H. Remes and Marc D. Falkoff.

Kiriakou, whose account first appeared in a story on ABC News's Web site, said he decided to go public to correct what he says are misperceptions about the role played by CIA employees in the early months of the government's anti-terrorism efforts.


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