Last week, in his letter to CIA employees informing them of the destruction of videotapes featuring interrogations, CIA director Michael Hayden claimed that “videotaping stopped in 2002.” Hayden said the agency “determined that its documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes.”
But the videotaping may not have actually stopped in 2002. The New York Times reports today that “a lawyer representing a former prisoner,” Muhammad Bashmilah, “who said he was held by the C.I.A. said the prisoner saw cameras in interrogation rooms after 2002“:
Meg Satterthwaite, a director of the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University who is representing Mr. Bashmilah in a lawsuit, said Mr. Bashmilah described cameras both in his cells and in interrogation rooms, some on tripods and some on the wall. She said his descriptions of his imprisonment, in hours of conversation in Yemen and by phone this year, were lucid and detailed.
According to an Amnesty International report, Bashmilah was detained in October 2003 and was transfered nearly a year later to a “detention facility run by US officials, apparently underground.” Bashmilah told Amnesty that there were “surveillance cameras in the cells.” He was released in May 2005.
CIA spokesperson Paul Gimigliano refused to comment on Bashmilah’s claims, telling the New York Times only that “he had nothing to add” to Hayden’s previous statements.
In November, a court filing revealed that “the CIA has three video and audio recordings of interrogations of senior al Qaida captives” that it had previously refused to disclose, but it is unclear when those recordings were made.
It’s possible that the cameras Bashmilah saw weren’t actually recording anything, but if they were, it would mean that Hayden was not being truthful when he said that “videotaping stopped in 2002.”
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman comments: “The CIA lied for years about the existence of videotaped interrogations, so there’s no reason to credit Hayden’s account of when the recordings ceased.”