Criminal Investigation Into Destroyed CIA Tapes Coming to a Close?


For over a year, a federal prosecutor has been quietly conducting a criminal probe into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes documenting the interrogations of Al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The tapes showed the terrorism suspects being subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, possibly waterboarding, and were reportedly destroyed in 2005 due to concerns the videos could prompt legal blowback against agency officials. According to a recent court filing [PDF], the investigation into the matter may soon be coming to close.

Steven Aftergood points us to a declaration filed by John Durham, the US Attorney who’s leading the investigation, in a related Freedom of Information Act case. In that case, the James Madison Project, a DC-based nonprofit headed by whistleblower lawyer Mark Zaid, is seeking access to CIA documents pertaining to the destruction of the tapes. Durham was seeking—and on Monday received—a stay in the FOIA case in order to give his team time to wrap up remaining interviews. But it won’t be long, he told the court. “Investigators are now in the process of scheduling interviews with the remaining witnesses to be interviewed in this investigation,” he wrote in the December 31 filing. “Based on the investigative accomplishments to date, we anticipate that by mid-February 2009, and no later than February 28, 2009, we will have completed the interviews.” He also said that a “considerable portion of the work to be done in connection with the investigation has been completed.”

Stay tuned.

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