CIA Interrogation Tapes Found Under Desk

The CIA possesses two videotapes of a Sept. 11 terror suspect being interrogated. That's significant because dozens of tapes — including those showing waterboarding — were destroyed. These new videos apparently do not show anything that might be considered torture. Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press tells Linda Wertheimer the tapes are of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, Im Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And Im Linda Wertheimer.

We know more, this morning, about a handful of tapes showing CIA interrogations. It's been years since the CIA said it destroyed tapes of suspects questioned after 9/11, but a few of those interrogation tapes apparently survived.

This morning, the Associated Press is reporting more about what the tapes show and how they escaped destruction.

Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press is in our studio.

Good morning, Matt.

Mr. MATT APUZZO (Reporter, Associated Press): Hey, good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So what do the tapes show? Have you seen them?

Mr. APUZZO: Oh, I haven't seen them. They're obviously pretty closely held. But from our reporting, it appears these tapes are different from the tapes you referred to that show waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. They show 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret prison in Morocco. Doesnt appear to be those kind of harsh tactics, but obviously, you know, very sensitive interrogations and, you know, very interesting that they survived.

WERTHEIMER: Why weren't they destroyed?

Mr. APUZZO: Sort of unclear. I think that at the time they were destroying the tapes in Thailand, the waterboarding tapes, they didnt really know that these tapes had even been made in Morocco and shipped to Langley, and sort of stuffed under a desk somewhere.

WERTHEIMER: So, somebody just pulled out a box under a desk and, hello, tapes.

Mr. APUZZO: Thats absolutely what happened in late December. In late 2007, a staffer in Langley at the CIA headquarters, pulled the box out underneath a desk at the Counterterrorism Center, and in there were two videotapes and an audiotape of Ramzi Binalshibh.

WERTHEIMER: What was Ramzi Binalshibh accused of in the 9/11 plot?

Mr. APUZZO: He's an admitted 9/11 facilitator. He's one of several people who had been dubbed the so-called 20th Hijacker. He tried to get into the United States. He tried to get a visa to participate in 9/11. You know, was unsuccessful in that, but has had, you know, numerous sort of facilitative roles in the al-Qaida network. I mean when he was captured, he was actually in charge of guarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's children.

WERTHEIMER: Now, he was interrogated on these tapes at a secret site in Morocco, by Moroccans. Who was really running the show there?

Mr. APUZZO: I mean thats a great question. When we first, sort of, started to hear, in late 2007, that these tapes existed, but we didnt know who they were; the CIA downplayed it, saying they're not our tapes, they're not our guy, it's not our prison, it's not our program - which I guess is sort of technically legally true.

The CIA used this Moroccan facility at sort of arm's length. Morocco ran the site. Morocco did the interrogations. But I mean, the CIA decided who got to go there, what questions got asked. They directed the interrogations, they paid for the facility to be upgraded. So it's sort of like, well, it's not our prisoner, it's not our site. Well, thats not totally true, but it's also, you know, on the books, on paper, legally true.

WERTHEIMER: How does this affect Ramzi Binalshibh's - the case against him?

Mr. APUZZO: Well, you know, everything is up in the air right now. President Obama is looking at what are we going to do with this all of these, you know, Guantanamo Bay detainees? You know, Ramzi may get a military commission. He may get a civilian trial. These tapes are certainly going to be relevant as to whether Ramzi is competent to stand trial, because he has all these sort of underlying mental illnesses.

WERTHEIMER: Matt Apuzzo is with the Associated Press. Thanks very much for coming in.

Mr. APUZZO: Thank you so much for having me.

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