New documents show the CIA destroyed nearly 100 tapes of terror interrogations, far more than has previously been acknowledged. The revelation Monday comes as a criminal prosecutor is wrapping up his investigation in the matter. The acknowledgment of dozens of destroyed tapes came in a letter filed by government lawyers in New York, where the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking more details of terror interrogation programs. "The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed," said the letter by Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. "Ninety two videotapes were destroyed." The tapes became a contentious issue in the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, after prosecutors initially claimed no such recordings existed, then acknowledged two videotapes and one audiotape had been made. The letter, dated March 2 to Judge Alvin Hellerstein, says the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit,
including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe
the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or
possessed the recordings before they were destroyed.
Harper's Scott Horton writes:
This news makes the case for an independent commission of inquiry still more compelling. It also builds the case for a special prosecutor to look into matters surrounding torture. The new prosecutor must be a person of stature and gravity on a par with the attorney general himself, must be seen as above the political fray, and must be given the resources and manpower to fully investigate the affair–including the increasingly obvious role played by the Justice Department. There is one inescapable conclusion to draw from the destruction of evidence here: those who destroyed it fully appreciated it could be offered up as evidence of crimes in which they were implicated in a future prosecution.
The tension continues to build surround the central issue of the Bush Administration's interrogation program. Something has to give eventually.