- Sep 3, 2007
- Washington state
A little something to hide? Maybe if the tapes had been made public, support for torture would not be quite as strong.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B55F7670-957E-44F0-A87A-8DD11D5E13BB.htmCIA destroyed 'waterboarding' tapes
The CIA has admitted destroying video tapes showing what is described as the "harsh interrogation" of al-Qaeda suspects.
The interrogations of two suspects were taped in 2002 and the tapes were destroyed in 2005, after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq surfaced.
Michael Hayden, the CIA director, told his staff on Thursday that the tapes were destroyed so identities of interrogators would not be compromised.
Scrutiny and scandal
But Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the CIA must have realised the tapes would be trouble after the Abu Ghraib scandal, when leaked pictures of US forces abusing Iraqi prisoners surfaced in 2004, causing an international outcry.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mark Agrast, of the Centre for American Progress, said: "The timing is very disturbing because they appear to have been destroyed at precisely the time that the Abu Ghraib photographs had come out and the stories of highly coercive interrogation practices were becoming known."
The destruction also came amid scrutiny over the agency's "rendition" programme, where suspects were allegedly detained and interrogated in secret locations outside the US.
Hayden said congressional intelligence committee leaders were informed of the existence of the tapes and the CIA's intention to destroy them.
He said the agency's internal watchdog had watched the tapes in 2003 and verified that the interrogation practices recorded were legal.
But Bishara said the methods were actually torture and the fact that the CIA had had the tapes but did not surrender them when the US commission to look into the 9/11 attacks and congress asked for such information, raised questions about whether the CIA obstructed justice.
Members of the commission and congress have expressed surprise at the existence of the tapes, saying that the CIA had repeatedly said that it did not record the interrogation of detainees.
Hayden's revelation appeared to be an attempt to pre-empt the New York Times, which informed the CIA on Wednesday evening that it planned to publish in Friday's newspaper a story about the destruction of the tapes.
Hayden said he was informing staff because the press had learnt about the destruction of the tapes.
Agrast said: "There will be congressional investigations, because this story was not shared with the house and senate intelligence committees that by law are supposed to be informed of activities of th is kind."
Bishara said the intelligence community appeared to be "cleaning house", with the revelation about the tapes coming on the heels of a report saying Iran halted its nuclear programme in 2003.
Hayden's revelation comes a day after the US congress agreed to ban techniques such as waterboarding – where a detainee undergoes similar conditions as drowning – a method of interrogation believed to be filmed on the tapes.
He said the CIA began taping the interrogations as an internal check on the programme after George Bush, the US president, authorised the use of harsh questioning methods.
The methods included waterboarding, government officials said.
"The agency was determined that it proceed in accord with established legal and policy guidelines. So, on its own, CIA began to videotape interrogations," Hayden said in a written message to CIA employees.
The CIA - headed at the time by Porter Goss - also decided to destroy the tapes in "the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them", Hayden wrote, adding that videotaping of the interrogations stopped in 2002.
"The tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the programme, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaeda and its sympathisers," Hayden's message said.
The CIA says it only taped the interrogation of the first two suspects it held, one of whom was Abu Zubaydah, who told CIA interrogators about alleged September 11 accomplice Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bush said in 2006.
Al-Shibh was captured and interrogated and, together with Zubaydah's information, he led to the 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
The suspected senior al-Qaeda operative held at the Guantanamo prison has claimed to be behind the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.