CIA Interrogation Tapes Investigation

A criminal investigation into why the CIA destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes recording harsh interrogations of two Al Qaeda leaders will stretch on at least another six months—and could ultimately result in indictments, according to a recent federal court filing obtained by NEWSWEEK. In his affidavit, John Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor on the case, said he is examining whether anyone "obstructed justice, made false statements, or acted in contempt of court or Congress in connection with the destruction of the videotapes." He said that he is specifically trying to determine whether the destruction of the tapes violated any judge's order. But progress may be slow. Two sources close to former intelligence officials who are potential key witnesses in the case, both of whom asked for anonymity when discussing the inquiry, said that these officials have not been summoned to give grand-jury testimony; one of them hasn't even been questioned by the FBI yet.

Intel officials acknowledged last year that the CIA taped interrogations—which included the use of "waterboarding"—of pre-9/11 fixer Abu Zubaydah and Persian Gulf boss Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The tapes were stashed at the CIA station in Thailand, where, in late 2005, they were destroyed on the order of Jose Rodriguez, then head of CIA clandestine operations. Current and former counterterrorism officials, who also asked for anonymity, said many top spies believed the use of harsh techniques had been foisted on the agency by hard-line Bush politicos. One former counterterrorism official close to the investigation told NEWSWEEK that spies involved believed they had legally "dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's" and therefore will not be prosecuted. Robert Bennett, the prominent D.C. lawyer who represents Rodriguez, had no comment. "The CIA has cooperated vigorously with official inquiries into the destruction of the tapes," said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano, "and is fully prepared to let the facts take us where they may."