9/11 Panel Joins Probe of Destroyed CIA Tapes

By Diane Smith

According to the U.S. panel investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks, the CIA had deliberately withheld tapes of supposed torture of terrorism suspects to obstruct the panel’s work, the New York Times wrote in its Saturday edition.

Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean, the leading chairmen of the panel, were the ones to comment on the issue for the New York Times. The two declared that the CIA had disposed of hundreds of hours of recordings of CIA investigators using “enhanced” investigation techniques such as waterboarding.

The latest revelation on the CIA disposal of the tapes has triggered investigations by the justice department, Congress and from within the CIA, and also provoked members of the September 11 commission to review the top secret documents and communications supplied by the CIA during their probe, the Times said.

Philip Zelikow, the panel’s former executive director, said he prepared a memorandum on the review according to which the panel had sought complete documents, reports and information linked to the interrogation process. Zelikow had been assured by the CIA that it had “produced or made available for review” everything that had been requested.

Panel chairman Lee Hamilton declared to the Times that the CIA had “clearly obstructed” the commission’s investigation. The other top chairman of the panel said he would submit Zelikow’s review to federal prosecutors and congressional investigators responsible with the destruction of the tapes issue.

The lawyers hired by the Guantanamo detainees said on Friday to federal judge Henry H Kennedy Jr. that this issue shows the Bush administration is ready to destroy evidence of possible torture or illegal interrogation methods.

“Until these inquiries are complete, until the oversights’ finished, I will be rendering no opinion from the podium,” Bush said.

“Let’s wait and see what the facts are,” the president added.

The destroyed tapes illustrated the 2002 interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and another top al-Qaeda member. At that point in time, Zubaydah was the most important capture of an al-Qaeda figure following the September 11, 2001 attacks.