In its attempts to uncover all materials related to the 9/11 attacks, the 9/11 Commission specifically requested material about the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The New York Times has revealed that the CIA destroyed tapes of the two men’s interrogation without informing the 9/11 Commission about their existence.
On Saturday, former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin told CNN:
I think it’s ludicrous to suggest, in fact, that we withheld anything of consequence from the 9/11 Commission. Anything that was on the tapes that would be relevant to their inquiry was given to them in writing, and the tapes would have simply not advanced their inquiry at all.
In fact, the tapes were highly relevant to the Commission’s inquiry. Philip Zelikow — the former staff director of the 9/11 Commission — explained: “The Commission was not investigating the treatment of captives. But it did seek information not only about the 9/11 plot, but also any intelligence information about the history and evolution of al Qaeda and its connections to other terrorist entities. Therefore, from the start, the Commission sought to obtain all relevant information gleaned from the interrogation of captives.”
This morning on CNN, 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean there is “no question” the CIA was aware that its now-destroyed videotapes depicting severe interrogations were among evidence being sought by 9/11 Commission investigators, and the destruction of the tapes was an attempt to “impede our investigation”:
We asked for every single thing that they had. And then my vice chairman, Lee Hamilton, looked the director of the CIA in the face, and said, Look, even if we haven’t asked for something, if it’s pertinent to our investigation, make it available to us. And our staff asked again and again of their staff and the tapes were not given to us. So, there was no question.[...]
I mean, no question that we again and again and again asked for everything, and we needed it, and we weren’t given it. And so, the only conclusion we can draw is it was withheld from us. And that can only be seen to me as an attempt to impede our investigation.
CIA spokesman Mike Mansfield said recently that the tapes weren’t destroyed until 2005 “because it was thought the commission could ask about the tapes at some point.” So, the CIA withheld the tapes and destroyed the evidence later, ensuring no one could view them to determine whether they were relevant to the Commission’s inquiry.