CIA Tapes Were Made—and Destroyed—for PR

Interrogations filmed to counter mistreatment accusations; stopped when techniques grew harsh, reports NYT
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2007 1:30 PM CST
This undated handout photo provided by the CIA shows Jose Rodriguez. Former head of the Clandestine Services division, who ordered the destruction of the interrogation tapes. (AP Photo/CIA)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Concern over its image prompted the CIA to first secretly create—and later destroy—tapes depicting the harsh interrogation of detainees, the New York Times reports. In spring 2002 the agency decided to document every moment of senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah's custody so that perceptions of mistreatment—by prosecutors, Congress, Americans, and Muslims worldwide—could be countered.

But only months later the taping stopped, as interrogations of prisoners grew ever rougher, eventually including the practice of waterboarding, the Times says. By 2004, after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the tapes began to be seen by elements in the CIA’s clandestine services as a serious threat to the agency’s reputation—and the safety of agents.