In December 2007, the New York Times reported that the CIA “destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody” in 2005. The tapes reportedly showed detainees being subjected to “severe interrogation techniques.” Now, in a letter to federal district Judge Alvin Hellerstein dated March 2, government lawyers reveal that nearly 100 such tapes were destroyed:
“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.
The letter was filed as part of the government’s response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in response to the December 2007 New York Times report. Former CIA director Michael Hayden previously defended the destruction of the tapes, saying it was “done in line with the law.”
The letter from Dassin can be viewed here. In a press release, the ACLU’s Amrit Singh responded, “This letter provides further evidence for holding the CIA in contempt of court. The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court’s order.”