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CIA Lawyer Testifies to US Congress on Destroyed Interrogation Videos


A CIA lawyer has testified behind closed doors to a U.S. congressional committee as part of a continuing investigation lawmakers are conducting into the destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, the appearance by acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo came as lawmakers continue an investigation in defiance of a request by the Justice Department to defer until its probe is complete:

Recorded in 2002, the videos show interrogations of two al-Qaida suspects who later alleged they were tortured with the technique called waterboarding, in which water is poured over a cloth on a prisoner's face to simulate drowning.

CIA Director Michael Hayden has said that the White House played no role in orders to destroy the videotapes, which occurred in 2005.

However, lawmakers want Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, to testify behind closed doors about his role in ordering the destruction.

Rodriquez' lawyer has advised him not to appear, insisting that he be granted immunity.

Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat described testimony Wednesday by CIA counsel Rizzo as highly detailed, but mentioned nothing about specifics it may have contained regarding Rodriguez.

A major unanswered question, says Reyes, is why Congress was not informed about the destruction of the tapes, underscoring the importance of eventual testimony by Rodriguez. "I am told that he is the individual that made that decision (to destroy the tapes). Again, we are going to take this process one step at a time. We are very early in the process, but certainly I agree with [Ranking Committee Republican] Pete Hoekstra that he is a very important individual that we want to get before the committee," he said.

In separate remarks, ranking panel Republican Hoekstra called eventual testimony by Rodriquez imperative.

He also complained that a bipartisan agreement has yet to be reached between Democrats and Republicans on the committee about how to move forward generally, and in particular how to handle the question of immunity for Rodriguez. "To get the full story, you have to have Mr. Rodriguez here to give us his version of where he thought he got the authorities from to make the decision [to destroy the videotapes] that many people are attributing to him," he said.

Congressman Reyes says he would not characterize this issue as a disagreement with panel Republicans, adding that he and Hoekstra are essentially on the same page and simply need to reach a bipartisan agreement.

Reyes adds that the list of potential witnesses is still evolving, saying in response to one question that he would absolutely call Bush administration officials as the panel "goes where the facts lead us."

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