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article imageNew York Times Says CIA Destroyed Interrogation Videos

By PTBartman     Dec 6, 2007 in Politics
In what could be another blow to the Bush administration and the intelligence community, Mark Mazetti of The New York Times is Claiming The US Central Intelligence Agency destroyed tapes of prisoner interrogations.
In the article posted hours ago on the paper's website, Mr. Mazetti states “The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.”
The 2002 tapes reportedly show two prisoners including the first detainee in C.I.A. Custody, Abu Zuhbaydah, being subjected to severe interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
While former CIA Director Porter Goss refused comment through a spokesperson, agency officials said that the tapes were destroyed in part to “protect the safety of undercover officers,” a claim that rings disingenuous coming from an administration involved in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The destruction of the tapes and the fact that they ever existed hopefully will reinvigorate the national debate on interrogation techniques. Furthermore, questions must be raised on whether or not the destruction of the tapes were an attempt by the agency, and by inference the beleaguered Bush administration, to cover up illegal activities, influence criminal defense, or stonewall governmental investigations and oversight.
Up until now the CIA has denied the existence of any such tapes in at least three separate incidents therefore charges such as perjury and obstruction of justice may be appropriate.
According to Mr. Mazzetti's article “The recordings were not provided to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had made formal requests to the C.I.A. for transcripts and any other documentary evidence taken from interrogations of agency prisoners.”
Mr. Moussaoui's lawyers had requested documentation, through the courts, of the interrogations in order to present evidence that Mr. Moussaoui was unknown by the Al Qaeda detainees proving his innocence in the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks. Federal prosecutors were told in 2003 and again in 2005 by CIA lawyers, that “the C.I.A. did not possess recordings of interrogations sought by the judge in the case.”
Then there was The President's own bi-partisan Sept 11th commission.
Phillip D. Zelikow, who served as executive director of the Sept. 11 commission is quoted as saying, “The commission did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request. No tapes were acknowledged or turned over, nor was the commission provided with any transcript prepared from recordings.”
According to Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission “this is a big deal.” It could amount to obstruction of justice,. withholding evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations. Marcus has said that he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed..
And in Congress, the article states, Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, has been pushing legislation to have all interrogations of prisoners videotaped so officials can refer to the tapes multiple times to glean better information.
Mr. Holt said he had been told many times that the C.I.A. does not record the interrogation of detainees. “When I would ask them whether they had reviewed the tapes to better understand the intelligence, they said ‘What tapes?’,” he said.
In a letter released to all CIA employees, CIA Dirrector Michael Hayden claimed that the tapes posed a “serious security risk,” and that if they were to become public they would have exposed C.I.A. officials “and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.”
He also claimed later in a statement that leaders of Congressional oversight committees were fully briefed on the matter, but some Congressional officials said notification to Congress had not been adequate.
“This is a matter that should have been briefed to the full Intelligence Committee at the time,” an official with the House Intelligence Committee said. “This does not appear to have been done. There may be a very logical reason for destroying records that are no longer needed; however, this requires a more complete explanation. “
This article received an award from Digital Journal's Editorial Board for outstanding citizen journalism. Every Friday, Digital Journal profiles the top news stories from around the world.
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