The CIA has admitted to destroying 92 videotapes of interrogation sessions with terrorist suspects.
The revelation that far more tapes had been destroyed than previously acknowledged came in a letter filed by US government lawyers in New York.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking more details of the Bush administration’s terror interrogation programmes following the September 11 attacks.
“The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed. Ninety two videotapes were destroyed,” said the letter written by Lev Dassin, the acting US attorney.
Amrit Singh, an ACLU lawyer, said the CIA should be held in contempt of court for holding back the information for so long.
“The large number of videotapes destroyed confirms that the agency engaged in a systematic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court’s order,” she said in a statement.
The tapes also became a contentious issue in the trial of the September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, after prosecutors initially claimed no such recordings existed, then after the trial was over, acknowledged two videotapes and one audiotape had been made.
The investigation found that the CIA’s videotapes included interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, once a senior aide of Osama bin Laden and held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, and another high-ranking member of the terrorist network. They were destroyed, in part, to protect the identities of the interrogators at a time the Justice Department was debating whether the tactics used during the sessions – which are believed to have included the “water boarding” torture technique of partial drowning – were illegal.
The letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit, including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or possessed the recordings before they were destroyed.
But the agency’s lawyers also note that some of that information may be classified, such as the names of CIA personnel that viewed the tapes.
“The CIA intends to produce all of the information requested to the court and to produce as much information as possible on the public record to the plaintiffs,” the letter stated.
By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 7:48PM GMT 02 Mar 2009
Source: The Telegraph