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CIA, US Justice Dept. to Investigate Destruction of Interrogation Tapes

The U.S. Justice Department and the Central Inteligence Agency (CIA) announced Saturday that they would open an investigation into the spy agency's destruction of videotapes that showed the interrogation of terrorism suspects. From Washington, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The announcement to conduct a preliminary inquiry follows strong demands from Democrats on Capitol Hill for an investigation, with some lawmakers accusing the CIA of a cover-up.

CIA Director Michael Hayden, who earlier acknowledged that his agency had destroyed the tapes in 2005, welcomed the announcement of the investigation and said the CIA would fully cooperate.

The decision to investigate comes just days after Hayden said the CIA had made and destroyed videotapes documenting interrogations of terrorism suspects that used techniques critics have denounced as torture.

A CIA official in charge of covert operations allegedly ordered the destruction of the tapes without informing the agency's lawyers.

Congressional Democrats have demanded the Justice Department investigate whether the CIA's destruction of the tapes amounts to obstruction of justice, in an effort to cover up evidence of possible abuse and torture of detainees. Law professor Jonathan Turley states, "these are very serious allegations, that raise as many as six identifiable crimes ranging from contempt of Congress, to contempt of Justice, to perjury, to false statements."

CIA director Hayden says the tapes were made in 2002 as part of a secret detention and interrogation program that began with the arrest of a suspected al-Qaida lieutenant. The taping was discontinued later that year. In a letter to CIA employees, Hayden said the tapes were destroyed as a precaution to protect the identities of the interrogators.

The Bush administration has faced harsh criticism at home and abroad over its treatment of terror suspects. Friday, a White House spokeswoman said President Bush had no recollection of being told about the tapes or their destruction until Thursday when the matter became public.
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