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Investigators from the House Intelligence Committee will be back at CIA headquarters today. They'll review memoranda and other agency documents about the destruction of videotapes that showed harsh interrogation methods. The committee wants to know whose idea it was to destroy the tapes.
Investigators also want to know about some other interrogation videotapes that were made but not destroyed. The CIA has acknowledged that it has more tapes, but has offered few details.
NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.
TOM GJELTEN: The news that the CIA preserved some recordings of detainee interrogations came out several weeks ago but got little attention at the time. Attorneys for convicted al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, years ago, requested testimony from other detainees. In considering that request, a federal judge asked the CIA whether any detainee interrogations had been recorded. The CIA said no.
But in October, a prosecuting attorney in the Moussaoui case informed the judge that the CIA declaration was incorrect. The U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, said the CIA actually had three recordings - two videotapes and an audiotape -showing the interrogation of one or more witnesses, whose testimony the Moussaoui team had sought. Members of Congress have demanded to know more about the destroyed CIA tapes, but these other interrogation tapes have gotten less attention.
Human rights lawyer John Sifton, director of the firm One World Research, says he's surprised.
Mr. JOHN SIFTON (Executive Director, One World Research): It's quite amazing that tapes exist and there's more clamor to it than what's on them. The fact is the tapes are in the possession of the CIA, and that's a big story.
GJELTEN: U.S. Attorney Rosenberg's letter to the judge says the CIA, quote, "came into possession of the three recordings under unique circumstances," unquote. That elliptical language, according to intelligence sources, means the CIA didn't itself record the interrogations. They were made by a foreign government. But which one?
There are a few foreign intelligence services that have collaborated with the CIA in the detention and interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members. There is, for example, the practice of rendition, when detainees are transferred to another country for questioning. The CIA has worked closely with Jordan's intelligence service known as the GID.
Joanne Mariner is a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Mr. JOANNE MARINER (Deputy Director, American Division, Human Rights Watch): The CIA handed over a number of people to the GID and rendered them to GID. And the GID held those people for varying amounts of time. And some of them were later handed back to the CIA and are now on Guantanamo. So there were people who were held for even up to 14 months by the GID.
GJELTEN: CIA officials won't say which government made these other recordings or identify the detainees who are shown being interrogated. But there are clues. A letter says a CIA declaration in May, 2003 that there were no interrogation recordings, later proved to be incorrect. But only a few al-Qaida detainees were in custody in the spring of 2003 and could have had their interrogations recorded.
A letter also says the recordings showed detainees whose testimony was sought by Zacarias Moussaoui. One detainee who fits all the criteria is Ramzi Binalshibh, a key 9/11 conspirator, arrested in September 2002 and then handed over to a foreign government - believed to be Jordan - for interrogation. He is also a detainee whose testimony was sought by the Moussaoui defense team.
The House Intelligence Committee's investigation into the destroyed CIA interrogation tapes might provide information about these other tapes, which were still in existence as of October. The CIA is now cooperating with the committee investigators and the committee has requested that the agency provide all documents referring or relating to the making, retention or destruction of any recordings of detainees.
Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.
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