Document a Day: The Waterboarding Tapes We’ll Never See

When he ordered the government to release images of detainee abuse, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein noted:

[T]he pictures are the best evidence of what happened, better than words, which might fail to describe, or summaries, which might err in their attempt to generalize and abbreviate.

As we saw yesterday, the battle over the visual documentation of abuse goes on, but the CIA has ensured that at least one part of that documentation will never be seen. In 2002, the CIA videotaped its interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim Al Nashiri, including its use of waterboarding and the other White House approved “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

In 2005, however, the CIA deliberately destroyed those videotapes—92 in total. The document on the left is from an eight-page inventory of the tapes to be destroyed; the cable on the right is the confirmation CIA headquarters requested that the destruction was completed.

An internal CIA email the day after the destruction quotes CIA Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez as saying “The heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain….[T]aken out of context, they would make us look terrible; it would be ‘devastating' to us.”






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