Hayden Tells Panel He Can't Answer Every Question About Tapes

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden reportedly said in a Senate hearing that the CIA interrogation tapes were made and destroyed by his predecessors.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden reportedly said in a Senate hearing that the CIA interrogation tapes were made and destroyed by his predecessors. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told the Senate intelligence committee in a closed hearing yesterday that he was unable to answer key questions about the destruction of interrogation videotapes because the decisions were made before he worked at the CIA.

Hayden told reporters after the hearing that he had "a chance to lay out the narrative, the history of why the tapes were destroyed."

But because the tapes were made in 2002 under then-CIA Director George J. Tenet and were destroyed in 2005 under another director, former representative Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), Hayden said he is unable to answer all the panel's questions.

"Other people in the agency know about this far better than I," Hayden said.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the intelligence panel's chairman, told reporters that the hearing was "useful and not yet complete" because of Hayden's inability to supply crucial information, including who authorized the destruction of videotapes and why lawmakers were not told about it sooner, or at all.

Hayden's appearance before the intelligence panel followed his disclosure last week that the CIA had destroyed recordings of the interrogations of suspected al-Qaeda operative Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein, commonly known as Abu Zubaida, and another senior captive, identified by intelligence officials as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Hayden said the destruction was necessary to protect the identities of CIA personnel who appear on the tapes, but many lawmakers and defense attorneys have alleged it was an attempt to cover up illegal torture.

One former senior intelligence official said yesterday that the recordings were contained on older-style videocassettes, rather than modern digital tapes or discs, and that no verbatim transcripts were made. Instead, results of the interrogations were contained in classified summaries, the official said.

Hayden's appearance followed disclosures by a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, who said that the use of a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding on Zubaida elicited information that "probably saved lives" but also amounts to torture.

Kiriakou's public remarks prompted Hayden to send a reminder to CIA employees yesterday about the importance of not disclosing classified information, intelligence officials said.

The Justice Department and the CIA inspector general have launched a joint inquiry into whether CIA officials obstructed justice or tampered with evidence by destroying the videotapes after federal courts had ordered the government to preserve materials related to interrogations and when the Sept. 11 commission was seeking information. The House and Senate intelligence committees have announced their own investigations of the tape destruction. Hayden is scheduled to participate in a closed-door hearing before the House panel today.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey declined to comment yesterday on the ongoing Justice probe or whether a special prosecutor should be appointed in the case, as was suggested by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and others.

"I think the Justice Department is capable of doing whatever it appears needs to be done," Mukasey said. "The question of a special prosecutor is the most hypothetical of hypotheticals, and that isn't going to be faced until it happens. And if it has to be, it will be."

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