Template:Outdated The CIA interrogation tapes destruction of two videotapes made by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during interrogations of Al-Qaeda suspects Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah as part of the ongoing War on Terrorism, in November 2005,[1] became public knowledge in December 2007. In February 2009, the Obama administration revealed that the CIA actually destroyed ninety-two videotapes of the interrogations.[2]


Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was ostensibly the last of the al-Qaeda suspects to be videotaped, as he was waterboarded in Thailand by CIA officers who questioned him. Shortly after, when a prisoner died in CIA custody in Iraq, it was decided that all such interrogations would not be videotaped, as it provided criminal "evidence".[3]

The tapes were kept in a secure location outside the United States until May 24, 2003 - less than a month after the Abu Ghraib scandal hit public headlines and caused many concern about criminal indictments. Robert Mueller, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales and John Bellinger III met at the White House, and discussed destroying the tapes; although the consensus was that the tapes should not be destroyed, and it was wrong to bring the idea of obstruction of justice "into the White House".[3]

In May 2005, Senator Jay Rockefeller made a request on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee for the CIA to turn over a hundred documents related to the alleged torture of prisoners in American custody. In September, after Porter Goss was named as the new Director of the CIA, Rockefeller renewed his request. Both times, he also mentioned the videotapes, which "undoubtedly sent a shiver through the agency".[3]

From May to November 2005, judge Leonie Brinkema was also pressuring the CIA to turn over the videotapes, as evidence in the trial against Zacarias Moussaoui. On November 14, the CIA responded that it did not have any such tapes.[3]


On December 6, 2007 the New York Times advised the Bush administration that they had acquired, and planned to publish, information about the destruction of tapes made of Zubaydah's interrogation, believed to show instances of waterboarding and other forms of possible torture.[4][5]

Michael Hayden, the Director of Central Intelligence, sent a letter to CIA staff, briefing them on the destruction of the tapes. Hayden asserted that key members of Congress had been briefed on the existence of the tapes, and the plans for their destruction. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disputed Hayden's assertion, saying that he only learned of the tapes in 2006, a year after their destruction.[4]

According to The Washington Post, Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and one of just four senior members of Congress who was briefed on the existence of the tapes, acknowledged being briefed.[5] Harman responded to Hayden's assertions by stating she had objected, in writing, to the tapes' destruction. Template:Quotation

Hayden asserted that the continued existence of the tapes represented a threat to the CIA personnel involved. He asserted that if the tapes were leaked they might result in CIA personnel being identified, and targeted for retaliation.[4][5] Regarding the possible risks the New York Times reported that according to "some insiders" an inquiry into the C.I.A.’s secret detention program "might end with criminal charges for abusive interrogations."[6] Hayden also said the tapes were destroyed "only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries."[7]

According to the New York Times, in 2005, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then chief of the C.I.A.'s Directorate of Operations, sent a cable to the agency's Bangkok station ordering the destruction of the tapes.[8] At that same time, Judge Leonie Brinkema asked the government about videotapes showing the interrogation of Zubaydah, but the government denied any existence thereof.[9][10]

Congressional leaders are demanding an inquiry on whether the CIA's destruction of the videotapes constitutes obstruction of justice, which is a federal crime.[11][12][13]

On December 19, 2007, The New York Times reported that four top administration lawyers discussed what to do with the CIA tapes back in 2005.[14] One day later, President George W. Bush maintained that he had no recollection of discussions about the destruction of the tapes.[15]

On January 2, Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced the appointment of Connecticut federal prosecutor John H. Durham to start a criminal investigation of the destruction of the tapes.[16] Durham had previously overseen investigations into the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston and was a lead prosecutor in various corruption cases in Connecticut.[16] Even though Mukasey described Durham as an outside prosecutor, others have criticized the lack of appointing a special prosecutor to the matter. Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Chairman of the House Judiciary Committees, stated that "While I certainly agree that these matters warrant an immediate criminal investigation, it is disappointing that the Attorney General has stepped outside the Justice Department’s own regulations and declined to appoint a more independent special counsel in this matter. Because of this action, the Congress and the American people will be denied – as they were in the Valerie Plame matter – any final report on the investigation."[17] Other commentators believed that the appointment of Durham showed that Mukasey was serious about the investigation.[18]


In 2010, the C.I.A. released email messages that there were dozens of tapes depicting the abusive interrogation of detainees. According to one document, an internal C.I.A. e-mail message, Porter Goss, the former director of the C.I.A., laughed and said that actually, it would be he, Goss, who would take the heat. The documents detailing those deliberations, including two e-mail messages from a C.I.A. official who was anonymous, were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The e-mail messages also reveal that top White House officials were angry that the C.I.A. had not notified them before the tapes were destroyed. The e-mail messages mention a conversation between Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel, and John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s top lawyer, in which Ms. Miers was “livid” about being told after the fact[19].

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