White House tacitly approved destruction of CIA waterboarding tapes, former official says
Contrary to the official CIA line, the lawyer for a captured prisoner revealed that her client reported seeing videocameras in interrogation rooms and on the wall of the prison in 2003 — a year after the CIA said interrogations had stopped, suggesting there may be yet more tapes.
“The former prisoner who reported seeing cameras, Muhammad Bashmilah of Yemen, was seized by Jordanian intelligence agents in 2003 and turned over to the C.I.A., according to an investigation by Amnesty International, the human rights advocacy organization,” the New York Times reported Tuesday. “He was flown from Jordan to Afghanistan in October 2003 and held there until April 2004, when he was flown by plane and helicopter to a C.I.A. jail in an unidentified country, Amnesty found. Mr. Bashmilah and two other Yemeni men held with him were flown to Yemen in May 2005 and later released.”
“Meg Satterthwaite, a director of the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University who is representing Mr. Bashmilah in a lawsuit, said Mr. Bashmilah described cameras both in his cells and in interrogation rooms, some on tripods and some on the wall,” the paper added. She said his descriptions of his imprisonment, in hours of conversation in Yemen and by phone this year, were lucid and detailed.
This comes in contrast to a statement from CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, who told agency employees in a message Tuesday that “videotaping stopped in 2002,” after officials “determined that its documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes.”
What’s more, the White House was pressed by the agency on numerous occasions as to whether the existing tapes — showing waterboarding of detainees — should be kept.
Even after two years of debate among government agencies, the White House declined to order the CIA to retain videotapes showing hundreds of hours of interrogations of two terror suspects, according to officials who spoke under condition of anonymity in Tuesday’s New York Times.
“They never told us, ‘Hell, no,’” the source, described as a former senior intelligence official, said. “If somebody had said, ‘You cannot destroy them,’ we would not have destroyed them.”
The White House and the Justice Department advised against destroying the tapes in 2003. But after two years of inter-agency deliberation and CIA pressure on the White House to deliver a clear answer, the tapes were destroyed after clearance from lawyers from the CIA’s clandestine service.
Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of the then-Directorate of Operations, authorized the tapes destruction.
The official quoted said Rodriguez destroyed the tapes because he was concerned for the safety of the CIA agents shown on the recordings.