Last night on the CBS Evening News, national security correspondent David Martin reported that a “well-informed source” informed the network that the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos to “avoid criminal prosecution.”
On Thursday, in a memo to CIA employees, Director Michael Hayden claimed that the videotapes were destroyed because they “posed a serious security risk“:
Beyond their lack of intelligence value — as the interrogation sessions had already been exhaustively detailed in written channels — and the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them, the tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qa’ida and its sympathizers.
CBS’s Martin reported, however, that a high-level anonymous source says that’s not true:
A well-informed source tells CBS News the videotapes of the interrogation of two high-level al Qaeda operatives were destroyed to protect CIA officers from criminal prosecution.
On Friday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) scoffed at Hayden’s rationale for destroying the tapes, calling it a “pathetic excuse.” “You’d have to burn every document at the CIA that has the identity of an agent on it under that theory,” Levin said.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), however, said he would not side with calls for an investigation because he believed the CIA’s actions were legal. “That doesn’t mean I like it,” McCain added.