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Which lie should we believe? CIA admits it destroyed evidence it said didn’t exist.

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by Nicholas Levis

CORRECTED & UPDATED

CIA claims it destroyed videotapes of interrogations central to the official story of September 11th. Writing in TIME magazine, former CIA agent and occasional “conspiracy theory” debunker, Robert Baer concedes that 9/11 skeptics seem all the more credible in the aftermath. Full-time debunker Gerald Posner also sees a cover-up.

The most important document in the official mythology of September 11th, The 9/11 Commission Report, is based largely on the reported statements of three prisoners: Khalid Shaikh Mohamed, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Abu Zubaydah. The Report describes these men as high-ranking members of Al Qaeda. U.S. authorities announced the captures of the three in the course of separate raids in 2002 and 2003. According to the CIA and U.S. military, they have been held ever since at “undisclosed locations,” and have had contacts only with a handful of interrogators. No U.S. agency has ever produced any of them in a public proceeding, or even provided photographs of them in captivity.

Khalid Shaikh Mohamed (see entries in the “Complete 9/11 Timeline”) was originally reported as killed during an attempt to capture him in Pakistan on September 10, 2002. He apparently survived, for he was reported as captured alive in March 2003. Until 2004, it was considered a security breach for a U.S. government source even to mention his name, although he was publicly identified as the “9/11 mastermind” in 2002.

The 9/11 Commission asked to see Mohamed and other prisoners, and was denied. The CIA instead provided English-language transcripts of interrogations supposedly held at the Guant√°namo prison, and told the Commission no videotapes of such interrogations existed. The Commission made no fuss about this denial of access, although its report portrays Mohamed in particular as the most important planner of the September 11th plot.

The Report cites Mohamed, Binalshibh and Zubaydah uncritically as primary sources, without expressing a shred of doubt that the transcripts constitute the mens’ words, that the words are genuine and unedited, or that the prisoners really are who the CIA says they are. This is despite the fact that Ernest May, one of the architects of the Report, admitted in a May 2005 memoir that the Commission “never had full confidence in the interrogation reports as historical sources.” One top CIA official throws out an estimate that as much as 90 percent of information gleaned from Mohamed (or is that “Mohamed”?) is unreliable.

We learned this week that CIA videotapes of at least some of these supposed interrogations — tapes which were previously said not to have existed! — are now said to have been destroyed in 2005. So far the CIA has copped to destroying hundreds of hours of tapes of Abu Zubaydah and of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, also identified as an Al Qaeda leader (captured in 2002, never produced in public).

The CIA claims — bizarrely — that this was done to protect the identities of the interrogators (apparently the Agency’s 19th-century video technology is incapable of blurring out faces or distorting voices on a tape). The corporate media floated the idea that the motive was to cover up the use of torture, possibly waterboarding. But as the “evidence” from which the official 9/11 fable lives disappears further into a black box, naturally any breathing skeptic must wonder to what extent the tapes, or even the prisoners, existed in the first place. And granting that the tapes existed, was the motive behind their destruction to hide torture, or to hide evidence? Even a defender of the official story like former CIA agent Robert Baer knows this latest twist only adds to the stink of obstruction and fakery in everything the intelligence community says about 9/11.

Gerald Posner, meanwhile, finds occasion to repeat a story told to him and to other sources such as Ron Suskind (author of The One Percent Solution), of how Zubaydah was supposedly duped by the CIA into naming three Saudi princes and a Pakistani general as accomplices to the terror network. All four of these personages subsequently turned up dead, the three princes in fact killed in separate incidents within a single week.

(Thanks to Paul Thompson and KJF for assists.)