TERRORISM -- August 17, 2010 at 12:10 PM ET
CIA Tapes Found Beneath Desk Show Questioning of 9/11 Plotter
The CIA has tapes of Yemeni national Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the 9/11 plotters being held in Guantanamo, being interrogated in a secret Moroccan prison in 2002, The Associated Press has reported. The tapes were discovered by a CIA employee in 2007 in a box beneath a desk at the agency's headquarters. AP reporter Matt Apuzzo described more on on Tuesday's "Morning Edition" on NPR.
From the AP story:
The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only existing recordings made within the clandestine prison system and could offer a revealing glimpse into a four-year global odyssey that ranged from Pakistan to Romania.
The tapes depict Binalshibh's interrogation sessions in 2002 at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat, according to several current and former U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the videos remain a closely guarded secret.
The videos, which the AP did not see firsthand, do not show harsh interrogation tactics being used and the 9/11 attacks are not discussed, according to those that have seen the tapes. The CIA has admitted to destroying 92 tapes in 2005 of two other 9/11 plotters, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri being subjected to waterboarding.
The tapes could complicate U.S. efforts to prosecute Binalshibh, 38, who has been described as a "key facilitator" in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. If the tapes surfaced at trial, they could highlight Morocco's role in a counterterrorism program known as Greystone, which authorized the CIA to hold terrorists in secret prisons and shuttle them to other countries.
The Moroccan government denies the existence of a secret prison. The AP has also tracked Binalshibh's movement while under custody from one secret prison to another in Pakistan to Afghanistan to Morocco to Poland and Romania. Binalshibh was moved to Guantanamo in 2006 and remains there.
It is unclear how the tapes may impact any future legal proceedings against Binalshibh. The Department of Justice recommended trying Binalshibh and four others, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in civilian court, but the Obama administration is still trying to decide if it should be a civilian trial or military tribunal.
The federal prosecutor who is already looking into whether destroying the other tapes was legal is also looking into why these latest tapes were never disclosed. In response to the AP's questions, CIA spokesman George Little said, "While we continue to cooperate with inquiries into past counterterrorism practices, the CIA's focus now is exactly where it should be: protecting the American people now and into the future."
One U.S. official downplayed the tapes' significance, telling the BBC they "show a guy sitting at a desk answering questions." The CIA had some more comments:
A CIA spokesman declined to answer questions about the tapes, but said the agency's "past detention program has been subject to multiple reviews by multiple government organizations under two administrations."
"Some of those examinations continue to this day, a year and a half after the program itself went out of operation. The so-called black sites and enhanced interrogation methods, which were administered on the basis of guidance from the Department of Justice, are a thing of the past."
Here's more coverage of this developing story: