CIA reveals it has 3,000 pages of documents relating to destroyed interrogation tapes
John Byrne
Published: Friday March 20, 2009

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The Central Intelligence Agency disclosed Friday that it has 3,000 summaries, transcripts, reconstructions and memoranda relating to 92 interrogation videotapes that were destroyed by the agency, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed Friday evening.

The agency, however, says they won't make them public or provide them to the civil rights group. The disclosure came as part of a lawsuit.

The CIA says they incinerated the tapes to protect the identities of agents involved in the interrogations. Their destruction came at the same time a federal judge was seeking information from Bush administration lawyers about the interrogation of alleged al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.

The CIA also refused to publicly disclose any witnesses who may have viewed the destroyed tapes or had custody of them prior to their destruction.

“The government is still needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIA's use of torture is well known,” Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU, said in a release. “Full disclosure of the CIA's illegal interrogation methods is long overdue and the agency must be held accountable for flouting the rule of law.”

The CIA could not be reached for comment.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the information came to light late Friday and was sent out by the ACLU in a release at 6:44PM ET. Organizations and agencies often release unfavorable information on Friday evenings, because American newspapers have the lowest circulation on Saturdays.

More from the ACLU's release issued Friday follows.

In December 2007, the ACLU filed a motion to hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify all records requested by the ACLU. That motion is still pending.

The agency’s latest submission came in response to an August 20, 2008 court order issued in the context of the contempt motion. That order required the agency to produce “a list of any summaries, transcripts, or memoranda regarding the [destroyed tapes] and of any reconstruction of the records’ contents” as well as a list of witnesses who may have viewed the videotapes or retained custody of the videotapes before their destruction. The CIA will provide these lists to the court for in camera review on March 26, 2009.

Earlier this month, the CIA acknowledged it destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations. The tapes, some of which show CIA operatives subjecting suspects to extremely harsh interrogation methods, should have been identified and processed for the ACLU in response to its Freedom of Information Act request demanding information on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The tapes were also withheld from the 9/11 Commission, appointed by former President Bush and Congress, which had formally requested that the CIA hand over transcripts and recordings documenting the interrogation of CIA prisoners.

The government’s letter to U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York is available online here.

The ACLU's contempt motion and related legal documents are available online here.

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