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Letter: Democrat told CIA not to destroy interrogation tapes

  • Story Highlights
  • Letter: Rep. Jane Harman said destroying tapes would "reflect badly on" CIA
  • Last month, the CIA acknowledged videotapes were made in 2002
  • Tapes showed the harsh interrogations of two terrorist suspects
  • In one instance, a tape shows detainee undergoing waterboarding
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From Pam Benson
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The then-senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee urged the CIA in 2003 not to destroy videotapes it had made of the interrogations of terrorist detainees, according to the newly declassified letter.

Lawyers for several Guantanamo detainees say the government has defied orders to preserve evidence.

Rep. Jane Harman wrote in a letter dated February 10, 2003, that destruction of the tapes would "reflect badly on the agency."

The Democrat from California released the letter Thursday.

Last month, the CIA acknowledged videotapes were made in 2002 of two terrorist detainees but were destroyed in 2005. Some of the tapes showed the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

In the case of Zubaydah, the tactics captured on videotape included waterboarding, which simulates drowning, a controversial technique that critics consider a form of torture.

Shortly after becoming the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee in 2003, Harman was briefed on the CIA's interrogation and detention program, and the existence of the videotapes. She was told of the intention to destroy the tapes once an internal inquiry into the program was complete.

Harman wrote her letter to the CIA's chief lawyer urging the agency to reconsider its plan.

"Even if the videotape does not constitute an official record that must be preserved under the law, the videotape would be the best proof that the written record is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future," she wrote.

The release of the letter comes a day after the Justice Department announced there is enough evidence to warrant a criminal investigation into the destruction of the CIA tapes. The inquiry will look into whether the CIA or other government officials committed crimes in the handling of the tapes.

Congressional oversight committees are independently investigating the tape destruction.

The House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA covert service who sources say ordered the destruction of the tapes, to testify before the panel January 16.

CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, who opposed the tape destruction, has agreed to voluntarily appear before the committee. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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