CIA and Lawmakers Face Questions about Interrogation Tapes

December 13, 2007 06:20 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden admits that his agency failed to inform Congress about the destruction of tapes showing the waterboarding of two al-Qaida suspects; also a related revelation puts congressional leaders from both parties under scrutiny.

30-Second Summary

On Dec. 12, in a closed-door hearing with members of the House Intelligence Committee Hayden admitted that his agency had failed to fully inform Congress about the interrogation tapes’ existence and eventual destruction.

This testimony comes one day after his classified briefing with the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his subsequent efforts to publicly distance himself from the controversy. Speaking to the press, Hayden emphasized that the decision to videotape the interrogations was made in 2002, under then CIA Director George Tenet, and the tapes’ destruction occurred in late 2005 under Tenet’s successor Porter Goss.

Hayden’s admission follows The Washington Post’s report that four key members of Congress knew about the tapes, and the use of waterboarding they reveal, as early as September 2002.

In fact, the Post reports that this “Gang of Four”—which included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—were privy to about 30 such private briefings “long before ‘waterboarding’ entered the public discourse.”

But why would the CIA want to disclose such sensitive information about their interrogation tactics? The Wall Street Journal surmises that it is “in part because senior officials at the CIA, not to mention the interrogators themselves, assuredly did not want to begin any such policy absent closing the political and legal loop on it."

In fact, Newsweek cites an unnamed intelligence officer as saying that the reason CIA officials decided to tape the interrogations in the first place was to protect the interrogators by “demonstrating that everything … complied with guidelines set down by the White House and Justice Department.”

Although the legality of waterboarding remains unclear, legal culpability is very much an issue in regard to the destruction of the interrogation videos. So much so that The New York Sun expects CIA officials involved to seek a pardon from President Bush. “There’s a very real possibility one of President Bush’s last acts very well might be granting immunity to certain CIA employees,” military personnel defense attorney Frank Spinner told the Sun.

Headline Links: Hayden, the tapes and potential pardons

‘CIA Chief Cites Agency Lapse in Tapes’
‘Bush May Pardon America’s Spies’

Background: Congressional knowledge of the tapes and the Mukasey confirmation

‘Hill Briefed on Waterboarding in 2002’
‘Torture Issue Puts Mukasey’s Future in Question’

Reactions: Congress investigates; Hayden distances himself

‘Hayden Distances Himself from Destruction of CIA Videos’

Historical Context: The history of waterboarding

Opinion & Analysis: The videotape controversy

Related Topics: Former CIA interrogator speaks out

Reference Material: Waterboarding described


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