CIA Director Michael Hayden knew of the terrorist interrogation videotapes now at the center of controversy more than a year ago, he told The Associated Press today.
Hayden knew "the fact of" the destroyed videotapes late in his tenure as principal deputy director of national intelligence, a post he held from April 2005 to May 2006, he said on his way to brief the House Intelligence Committee about the unfolding investigation.
"We are very happy to let the facts take us where they will," Hayden told a phalanx of TV cameras at the Capitol before stepping into an elevator to the panel's secure meeting room.
Hayden made a similar appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, but said he could not answer all the panel's questions because the tapes were created and destroyed before he arrived at the CIA, under the tenure of his predecessors George Tenet and Porter Goss.
"Other people in the agency know about this far better than I," Hayden said, and promised the committee he would make those witnesses available.
Hayden told CIA employees last week that the videotapes, made in 2002, showed the CIA's interrogations of two terror suspects. The CIA destroyed the tapes in 2005. The tapes were made to document how CIA officers were using new, harsh questioning techniques recently approved by the White House to force recalcitrant prisoners to talk.
They show the interrogations of Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee taken by the CIA in 2002, is now being held with other detainees at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He told his interrogators about alleged 9/11 accomplice Ramzi Binalshibh, and the two men's confessions also led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the U.S. government said was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Al-Nashiri is the alleged coordinator of the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors. He is also now at Guantanamo.
The CIA has not described exactly what was shown on all the tapes. However, among the harsh interrogation techniques the White House approved in 2002 was waterboarding.
Waterboarding involves strapping down a prisoner, covering his mouth with plastic or cloth and pouring water over his face. The prisoner quickly begins to inhale water, causing the sensation of drowning.
The CIA is known to have waterboarded three prisoners &
Abu Zubaydah, Al-Nashiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The CIA has not used the technique since 2003, according to a government official familiar with the program. Hayden prohibited waterboarding in 2006. The U.S. military outlawed it the same year.
The CIA destroyed the videotapes in November of 2005. Exactly when Congress was notified of that and in what detail is in dispute.
President Bush said he didn't know about the tapes or their destruction until last week.
Hayden knew about videotapes before taking command of CIA