Sunday, December 9, 2007
The United States Congress has launched its own inquiry into a decision by the U.S spy agency to destroy tapes of interrogations of terror suspects, with Central Intelligence Agency chief Michael Hayden testifying before lawmakers this week.
The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, says Hayden will appear before his panel.
"CIA director Michael Hayden is going appear before our committee on this coming Tuesday and talk about interrogation and techniques," said Rockefeller.
During an appearance on the CBS television program Face the Nation, Rockefeller made clear members have a lot of questions about the destroyed videotapes.
"Were there things on those tapes that they did not want to have seen, that did not conform to what the attorney general would allow them to do?" he said.
Rockefeller indicated the session will take place behind closed doors, to enable law makers to delve into areas that are still considered top secret, and have to do with specific interrogation procedures.
The CIA director disclosed the destroyed videotapes last Thursday, after he got word that their existence had been uncovered by the news media. The tapes which were made in 2002, showed the interrogation of top terror suspects. They were destroyed in 2005, and Congressional critics charge that could amount to tampering with legal evidence and obstruction of justice.
Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former chair of the Judiciary panel, says the preliminary joint inquiry by the Justice Department and the CIA announced yesterday is not enough.
Biden, who is running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, was interviewed on ABC's This Week.
"I think that Hayden is not to be the judge of whether or not his condoning the destroying of the tapes was lawful. It appears as though there may be an obstruction of justice charge here, tampering with evidence, destroying evidence,and I think this is one case where it really does call for a special counsel," said Biden.
Hayden told CIA employees Thursday the tapes were destroyed out of fears that if they ever became public, the identities of the interrogators would be revealed and their lives would be in danger.
President Bush gave the intelligence community the go-ahead to use enhanced interrogation techniques on terror suspects following the September 11th 2001, attacks on the United States.
The Bush administration has refused to specify which methods are permitted, but critics charge some amount to torture, including a procedure known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona has called for the White House to publicly disavow the use of harsh interrogation techniques.
He appeared on the Fox News Sunday television program.
"What this does in a larger sense is it harms the credibility and the moral standing of America in the world again," said McCain. "There will be skepticism and cynicism all over the world about how we treat prisoners and whether we practice torture or not."
Senator McCain, a former Vietnam War era prisoner of war, has been one of the most outspoken members of Congress on the treatment of detainees in the war on terror. He is campaigning to become the Republican Party's presidential nominee.
== Sources ==
Paula Wolfson. "CIA Chief to Testify Before Congress on Interrogations" — VOA News, December 9, 2007
Demetri Sevastopulo. "Senator seeks tougher CIA tapes inquiry" — Financial Times, December 9, 2007