[JURIST] CIA Director Michael Hayden [official profile] sent a memo to CIA employees Thursday saying that the agency videotaped the interrogations of two terror suspects in 2002, but that the tapes were destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. The videotapes were used as an internal check by the CIA to ensure that interrogations were being conducted in accordance with guidelines permitting harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], authorized by President Bush. The tapes were also used to verify information gathered during the interrogations for CIA documentation purposes. After an internal watchdog group verified that the practices were legal in 2003, Hayden said the tapes were destroyed for fear that interrogators and their families could face retaliation from al Qaeda if their identities were ever exposed. Hayden also said that no other CIA interrogations of terror suspects had been videotaped.
Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui [JURIST news archive]. Abu Zubayd [BBC profile] was one of the two terror suspects whose interrogations were videotaped; information gathered during the session ultimately led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile]. The memo comes amid increased concerns [JURIST op-ed; JURIST news archive] about US interrogation techniques of terror suspects and a proposed intelligence bill [JURIST report] which aims to restrict the CIA's use of harsh questioning tactics, including waterboarding. AP has more.
3:58 PM ET – US President George W. Bush Friday denied knowledge that the CIA had recordings of suspect interrogations or that it had decided to destroy those recordings. AFP/Reuters has more.