BY GREG GORDON
The CIA has three video and audio recordings of interrogations of senior al-Qaida captives but misled federal judges about the evidence during the case against terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, federal prosecutors revealed in a Nov. 9 court filing that was made public Tuesday.
The disclosure is unlikely to undo Moussaoui’s conviction because the agency said the material on the tapes doesn’t pertain to his case.
However, the disclosure that the government taped some interrogations of high-value detainees could invite fresh scrutiny of the CIA’s treatment of so-called “enemy combatants” who were held at secret prisons or U.S. bases overseas.
John Radsan, a former CIA assistant general counsel who teaches at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, called the revelation of the tapes “huge” news. “So far, there has been great mystery about what was actually done to the high-value detainees,” he said. “A videotape is worth a thousand words.”
The government’s letter said that “the CIA came into possession of the three recordings under unique circumstances involving separate national security matters,” leaving unclear whether the tapes show CIA interrogations or possibly questioning by agents of another country.
Prosecutors revealed the existence of the tapes in a letter to Chief Judge Karen Williams of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and to U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema of Alexandria, Va., the trial judge in the tumultuous, 4½-year prosecution of Moussaoui.
In it, they said that the CIA didn’t notify them until Sept. 13 that it had discovered a videotape and the transcript of an interrogation of an unidentified detainee. Prosecutors said they then asked the CIA to perform “an exhaustive review” for any other recordings of roughly a half-dozen al-Qaida captives whom Moussaoui had sought as defense witnesses, and a second videotape and a brief audio tape were discovered.
Among the prisoners whose testimony Moussaoui sought were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly admitted masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks after he was waterboarded.