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Investigators pore over CIA papers related to destroyed tapes

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  • Congressional officials examining documents related to interrogation videotapes
  • CIA, Justice Department, House Intelligence Committee investigating
  • New York Times reports White House lawyers discussed tapes with CIA
  • Tapes reportedly showed agents interrogating two al Qaeda suspects
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional investigators went to CIA headquarters Thursday to begin reviewing documents related to the destruction of controversial videotapes.

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President Bush said he would be "rendering no opinion from the podium" regarding the destroyed CIA tapes.

The CIA will let the House Intelligence Committee review documents related to the destruction of tapes that showed the interrogation of two al Qaeda operatives, a U.S. intelligence official said Thursday.

The CIA hopes to get "the ball rolling" and provide "quick access" to an initial batch of material, the official said.

At issue are documents related to the CIA's destruction of videotapes made several years ago. The tapes reportedly showed the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, one of the first high-ranking al Qaeda members captured by U.S. agents, and another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Critics questioned whether the tapes depicted techniques that some consider torture, including the practice of waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

At least two investigations into the tapes' destruction are under way -- one by the administration, and another by the House Intelligence Committee.

President Bush said Thursday that he first learned of the tapes' destruction in a briefing this month from Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director. Video Watch Bush respond to questions about the tapes »

The president also said he would reserve judgment on the controversy until investigations into the matter are resolved.

"Until these inquiries are complete, until this oversight is finished," the president said, "I will be rendering no opinion from the podium."

Bush said he was confident that the inquiries, "coupled with the oversight provided by the Congress, will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened."

The House Intelligence Committee had threatened to issue subpoenas for the CIA documents related to the decision to make, retain and then destroy the videotapes.

An aide to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said some staff members went to the CIA on Thursday afternoon to discuss document access.

Yet Hoekstra spokesman Jamal Ware said that merely reviewing the documents at the CIA is not responsive to the committee's request for a list of documents they want copied and sent to Capitol Hill.

The CIA and Justice Department urged the House Intelligence Committee last week to delay its probe until the CIA and Justice Department complete an initial investigation.

On Wednesday, however, Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said the Justice Department "had given the green light to the agency [the CIA] to cooperate.

"The Department of Justice has changed its mind," Reyes told reporters. "Today, we have reason to believe we'll be getting documents."

Reyes said he has asked the Intelligence Committee's chief lawyer to prepare subpoenas for CIA General Counsel John Rizzo and the former head of the agency's clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez. They could appear before the committee next month. Reyes also said he hoped they would appear voluntarily to answer questions.

U.S. government officials have told CNN that Rodriguez ordered the destruction of the videotaped interrogations. According to government sources, Rizzo, who viewed the tapes as the agency's chief lawyer, indicated the tapes should be preserved. Rizzo did not find out about their destruction until after the fact, the sources said.

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Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Wednesday that several White House lawyers participated in discussions with the CIA about whether to destroy the videotapes. The newspaper reported that the White House lawyers included then-White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, and Harriet Miers, who was then Gonzalez's deputy. Video Watch what a reporter says about the controversy »

Administration officials had told CNN earlier that Miers was aware of the tapes' existence and had cautioned the CIA not to destroy them. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN Senior Producer Pam Benson contributed to this report.

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