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The Case of the 92 Destroyed Videotapes

POSTED: 05:10 PM ET, 03/ 2/2009 by Derek Kravitz

The CIA's acknowledgment that it destroyed 92 videotapes showing terror suspect interrogations, among other things, raises further questions about one of the most contentious episodes of the Bush administration.

The extent of the destruction was revealed as the result of a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The materials reportedly include interrogation tapes made of al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and another unnamed al-Qaeda leader. Those tapes were destroyed to conceal the identities of the interrogators involved, just as the Justice Department grappled with the legality of the interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

Zubaydah's name has come up before in connection with questionable interrogation methods.

Complaints levied against FBI agents about abusive interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other U.S. military sites were revealed in May, showing Guantanamo detainees were being subjected to extreme temperatures, religious abuses and nude interrogation. Those reports were conveyed at White House meetings of senior officials in 2003, yet the questionable tactics remained in use, a lengthy report by the Justice Department's inspector general concluded.

An internal investigation was launched after an FBI agent allegedly told his ex-fiance about the interrogation of Zubaydah, al-Qaeda's field operations commander who was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan, and leaked classified information to a TV reporter.

There was no disciplinary action taken against the agent, despite evidence from the ex-fiance that indicated the agent had passed along highly sensitive information about interrogation techniques and practices. The FBI's examination into what happened was later deemed "deficient," according to the inspector general report.

In December 2007, the CIA revealed that it had destroyed videotapes of its harsh interrogations of two captured al-Qaeda leaders.

The report refocused attention on what happened in the agency's secret prisons in recent years. The Post's Dana Priest first reported two years ago that the CIA interrogated terror suspects in a system of covert prisons that at various times included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Her report added focus to the picture of how U.S. intelligence and military officials had handled detainees since 9/11 and the Iraq invasion. It came a year after CBS' "60 Minutes," the New Yorker magazine and The Post uncovered photographs documenting the mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

By Derek Kravitz |  March 2, 2009; 5:10 PM ET
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