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CIA chief: Agency 'could have done better' on interrogation tapes

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  • NEW: CIA director says Congress could have been better informed about tapes
  • Tapes show interrogation of two al Qaeda subjects in 2002
  • Lawmakers say they were not informed about destruction of tapes
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted Wednesday the agency could have done a better job of keeping the House Intelligence Committee in the loop when it destroyed videotapes showing agents using waterboarding and other "alternative" interrogation techniques on al Qaeda operatives.

Central Intelligence Agency Director Michael Hayden testified on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.

"I think it's fair to say that particularly at the time of the [tapes'] destruction we could have done an awful lot better in keeping the committee alerted and informed as to that activity," Hayden told reporters after emerging from a three-hour closed-door meeting with the committee.

Hayden disclosed the existence and destruction of the tapes in a memo to CIA employees last week after he learned a newspaper was about to publish the information. U.S. officials said the recordings were made as "an internal check" on the CIA's use of interrogation techniques authorized in 2002 against suspected terrorists.

The tapes showed interrogations of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002. The tapes were destroyed in 2005 after it was determined they no longer had intelligence value, Hayden wrote.

One of the suspects, Abu Subayda, was "waterboarded" to get him to talk, and he yielded valuable information, a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, told CNN on Tuesday. Video Watch Kiriakou say he now feels waterboarding is unethical »

Human rights groups consider waterboarding -- in which a prisoner is restrained and water poured over his mouth and nose to produce the sensation of drowning -- a form of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition.

The Justice Department and the CIA have launched an investigation into the destruction of the tapes.

The CIA chief said he was aware of the existence of the tapes before he took his current job, but he didn't know about them before they were destroyed in 2005.

Hayden's comments to the committee vary from his employee memo, in which he said the "leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago and of the agency's intention to dispose of the material.

"Our oversight committees also have been told that the videos were, in fact, destroyed," Hayden's December 6 memo said.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Michigan, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the CIA chief's comments Wednesday prove the committee was not kept up to date on the matter.

"It's pretty clear that the House Intelligence Committee was not kept fully informed of what was going on with these tapes, whether it was the existence of these tapes, the discussion and the plans to destroy these tapes, and then actually the destruction of these tapes a few years ago," he said.

Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, agreed.

"There is a tremendous amount of frustration, because notwithstanding what Hayden put out last week, we feel our committee was not informed, has not been kept informed, and we are very frustrated about that issue," he told reporters.

The committee plans to call several other witnesses, including those whom Hayden called "experts" -- those who were actually involved in the program.

Hayden briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter Tuesday. After the briefing, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said nothing he heard during Hayden's appearance indicated anything "illegal or unlawful" was done. The committee's Democratic chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, told reporters, "We need to get to the bottom of it."


A U.S. government official said Tuesday the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 on the orders of Jose Rodriguez, the head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, who retired in September. Lawyers for the NCS gave written approval for the move, the official said.

Government officials have said CIA General Counsel John Rizzo opposed destroying the tapes and found out only after the fact as did then-CIA Director Porter Goss, a former chairman of the House Intelligence committee. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ed Henry, Pam Benson and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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