[JURIST] The CIA obstructed the investigations of the 9/11 Commission [official website] by withholding videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive] even though commission leaders had lawfully and repeatedly asked for information that would clearly be contained in the tapes, commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice-chairman Lee Hamilton [official profiles] wrote in an op-ed [text] in Wednesday's New York Times. In the op-ed, Kean and Hamilton reiterated their concerns [JURIST report] over the withholding of the tapes, and balked at CIA claims that it would have furnished the tapes if the commission had specifically asked for them, writing:
There could have been absolutely no doubt in the mind of anyone at the C.I.A. — or the White House — of the commission's interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot. Yet no one in the administration ever told the commission of the existence of videotapes of detainee interrogations.
The two wrote that while it was not within commission's purview to investigate the treatment of the detainees, other information that could have been gleaned from the tapes such as the method of translation, the specific questions asked, how inconsistencies were handled and the context of the interrogations were vital to assessing the credibility of the information obtained from them. They also wrote that no other information provided by the CIA adequately addressed these questions and that they had detailed their concerns on page 146 of the 9/11 Commission's Report [PDF text]:
Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses – sworn enemies of the United States – is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.
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. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] last month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. In their op-ed, Kean and Hamilton concluded:
As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.'s failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.
AFP has more.