Feds probably won't charge anyone for destroying CIA tapes
John Byrne
Published: Tuesday March 3, 2009

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Interrogators, incinerators likely to escape charges

Even though he has yet to complete his investigation, a federal prosecutor has already signaled that he is unlikely to indict any CIA employees for incinerating 92 secret interrogation tapes that purportedly show suspects being waterboarded.

Lost in the flood of reports about the CIA admitting the destruction of 92 interrogation tapes in a government legal filing were new and potentially devastating details. Sources close to an ongoing probe told The Washington Post that they expect no one at the CIA will be charged.

Obama CIA Director Leon Panetta previously told a confirmation committee that there were no plans to prosecute those involved in former President George W. Bush's interrogation program, which critics -- and Panetta -- describe as torture. But the new revelation that federal prosecutor John Durham won't charge CIA operations employees with what appears to have been obstruction of justice, raises the stakes even higher.

In fact, the CIA said it destroyed the tapes to protect the identities of agents involved in the interrogation program.

Further, the government knows who ordered the tapes destruction. Then-directorate of operations chief Jose A. Rodriguez gave the order to destroy the tapes in 2005. Since then, the CIA says they've discontinued taping detainees.

Federal prosecutor John "Durham appears unlikely to secure criminal indictments against Rodriguez and other agency operations personnel involved in the conduct," three sources told the Post. "In recent months, the prosecutor has focused special attention on CIA legal advisers who reviewed court directives and on agency lawyers who told Rodriguez that getting rid of the recordings was sloppy and unwise but that it did not amount to a clear violation of the law, the sources said.

The prosecutor has also obtained e-mail messages and internal memoranda that detail the "jarring or unpleasant substance" or the interrogations, the report added -- which purportedly include waterboarding.

"At issue are recordings that chronicle the interrogation of two senior al-Qaeda members... while they underwent a simulated drowning practice known as waterboarding and in less hostile moments as they interacted with agency employees or sat in their prison cells," government officials speaking under the condition of anonymity said.

According to the letter the government filed Monday disclosing the number of tapes destroyed, the agency has asked for an extension until Friday to provide the names of witnesses who might have viewed the tapes before they were destroyed.

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