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New Details About Destroyed Torture Tapes

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November 24, 2009

Last Friday, we got a list, called a Vaughn index, of records related to the CIA’s destruction of videotapes that showed the torture and abusive interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody overseas. Among the most interesting revelations in the index are the precise date the tapes were destroyed, and evidence that the Bush White House was involved in early discussions about the tapes’ destruction.

Listed in the index released late last week are a November 8, 2005, cable from a CIA field office to CIA headquarters requesting permission to destroy the 92 tapes, and a November 9, 2005, cable confirming their destruction. The precise date of destruction confirms that the tapes were destroyed immediately after the Washington Post reported the existence of the CIA black sites and the New York Times reported that the CIA Inspector General had questioned the legality of the agency’s torture program.

The index also lists the earliest known record of White House participation in discussions about destroying the tapes — an email dated February 22, 2003, revealing that CIA officials met with Bush administration officials to discuss how the agency should respond to a letter from Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.) advising the agency not to destroy the tapes (PDF). While it was known previously that the White House participated in discussions about the disposition of the tapes, this is the earliest record to date of any such discussions.

To learn more, check out our new selected chronology of what is now known about the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes.