Sat Dec 22, 2007
The CIA obstructed an official US investigation into the September 11 attacks
by withholding tapes of interrogations of Al-Qaeda operatives, according to
former investigators quoted in a report on Saturday.
A review of documents by former members of the 9/11 commission revealed the
panel made repeated, detailed requests to the spy agency in 2003 and 2004 for
information about the interrogation of members of the extremist network, but
were never notified of the tapes, the New York Times reported.
The review of the commission’s correspondence with the Central Intelligence
Agency came after the agency earlier this month revealed it had destroyed videotapes
in 2005 that showed harsh interrogations of two Al-Qaeda members.
The review, written up in a December 13 memo prepared by Philip Zelikow, the
former executive director of the 9/11 commission, said that “further investigation
is needed” to resolve whether the CIA’s failure to hand over the tapes
violated federal law.
The memorandum does not assert that withholding the tapes was illegal but states
that federal law penalizes anyone who “knowingly and wilfully” withholds
or “covers up” a “material fact” from a federal inquiry,
the newspaper said.
The revelation adds to pressure on President George W. Bush’s administration,
already under fire over the affair by human rights groups and lawmakers who
allege that destroying the tapes covered up proof of torture.
Responding to the New York Times report, the CIA said the commission never
specifically asked for interrogation videos.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield told AFP the agency had gone to “great lengths”
to satisfy the panel’s requests, and that commission members had been provided
with details from interrogations of detainees.
“The 9/11 commission certainly had access to, and drew from, detailed
information that had been provided by terrorist detainees. That’s how they reconstructed
the plot in their comprehensive report,” he said.
“Because it was thought the commission could ask about tapes at some point,
they were not destroyed while the commission was active.”
The two chairs of the commission, former Democratic lawmaker Lee Hamilton and
former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, told the newspaper the review showed
the CIA had actively tried to impede the panel’s work.
Kean said the panel would give the memorandum to federal officials and lawmakers
in Congress who are investigating the destruction of the tapes. Hamilton said
the CIA “clearly obstructed” the panel’s probe.
According to the memo posted on the New York Times’ website, the commission
was interested in interrogations of Al-Qaeda members because it was trying to
reconstruct the events leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2001, on New
York and Washington.
The commission made initial general requests for intelligence information from
interrogations, including the two detainees on the destroyed videotapes, Abu
Zubaydah and Abd al-Rashim al-Nashiri, said the memorandum.
It followed up with more requests for “very detailed information”
about the context of the interrogations, the credibility of statements from
detainees, the quality of language translation and other issues.
“The commission was dissatisfied with the answers it received to these
questions,” Zelikow’s memorandum said.
None of the officials who communicated with the panel ever revealed the existence
of the videotapes, it said.
The CIA spokesman cited earlier public comments by the 9/11 commission about
the spy agency’s cooperation, such as “the CIA provided great assistance”
to its investigation.
“The CIA has cooperated fully in making available both the documents and
interviews that we have needed so far on this topic,” it said.
A senior intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP
that news stories about interrogation techniques had already appeared when the
commission made its final report.
“If the commission had wanted to make an issue of how the information
was obtained from the detainees as opposed to what was learned from them, they
had an opportunity to do so at the time,” the official said. “They
didn’t do that.”
Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse. Source URL: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20071222/ts_alt_afp/usattackstorture_071222185838
See Also: 9/11 Panel Study Finds That C.I.A. Withheld Tapes
By Mark Mazzetti
Published: December 22, 2007
WASHINGTON — A review of classified documents by former members of the
Sept. 11 commission shows that the panel made repeated and detailed requests
to the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 and 2004 for documents and other
information about the interrogation of operatives of Al Qaeda, and were told
by a top C.I.A. official that the agency had “produced or made available
for review” everything that had been requested.
The review was conducted earlier this month after the disclosure that in November
2005, the C.I.A. destroyed videotapes documenting the interrogations of two
A seven-page memorandum prepared by Philip D. Zelikow, the panel’s former
executive director, concluded that “further investigation is needed”
to determine whether the C.I.A.’s withholding of the tapes from the commission
violated federal law.
In interviews this week, the two chairmen of the commission, Lee H. Hamilton
and Thomas H. Kean, said their reading of the report had convinced them that
the agency had made a conscious decision to impede the Sept. 11 commission’s