Is the CIA lying about destroyed tapes?

The agency says it told Congress about the tapes and that the 9/11 Commission never asked. Really?

By Tim Grieve

Published December 7, 2007 1:00PM (EST)

When the CIA learned Wednesday that the New York Times was going to publish a story saying that it had destroyed videotapes of "harsh interrogations" of two men suspected of being members of al-Qaida, the agency went for the preemptive strike: Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, issued a statement acknowledging the destruction of the tapes but saying that the agency had acted "in line with the law" and had briefed members of Congress before acting.


The Times says Rep. Peter Hoekstra and Rep. Jane Harman -- the chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee at the time -- say they weren't told in advance that the tapes would be destroyed. The Washington Post says Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, says he wasn't told about the destruction of the tapes until long after the fact. "While we were provided with very limited information about the existence of the tapes, we were not consulted on their usage nor the decision to destroy the tapes," he said.

Curiously missing from either the Post or the Times: Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who was the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time.

There's also the question of the 9/11 Commission.

CIA spokesman Mike Mansfield says the commission never asked specifically for tapes. But Philip Zelikow, who served as the commission's executive director before going to work for Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, tells the Times that the commission "did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request." Zelikow said the CIA neither "acknowledged" nor "turned over" any tapes, nor was the 9/11 Commission given transcripts of them.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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