WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA destroyed 92 videotapes of terror-suspect interrogations, according to a court document filed by the government on Monday. The disclosure marks the first time the specific number of tapes has been made public.
A former CIA officer says the destroyed tapes showed harsh interrogations, including the use of waterboarding.
The tapes were made in 2002 and showed the interrogations of two suspected al Qaeda leaders, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. According to former CIA officer John Kiriakou, some of the videos showed harsh interrogations, including the use of waterboarding, which is said to simulate drowning and is considered by most people to be a form of torture.
Government officials have said the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 at the orders of Jose Rodriguez, then head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, with the approval of NCS lawyers.
The tape destruction is under investigation by John Durham, a federal prosecutor.
The disclosure of the number of tapes involved came as part of a federal court proceeding in New York involving an American Civil Liberties Union motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying the tapes.
Durham had requested and received a stay on the ACLU motion while his investigation was under way.
Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin wrote in a letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein that Durham had not requested a continuation of the stay after it expired February 28.
"The CIA can now identify ... 92 videotapes were destroyed," wrote Dassin.
He also told the court the CIA is collecting information describing each of the destroyed tapes, as well as written accounts of the tapes and the identities of the people who viewed or possessed the recordings. "The CIA intends to produce all of the information requested to the court and to produce as much information as possible on the public record to the plaintiffs, Dassin wrote.
But the ACLU, in a written statement, said the government's letter proves the CIA is in contempt. "The large number of videotapes confirms the agency engaged in a systemic attempt to hide evidence of its illegal interrogations and to evade the court's order."
CIA spokesman George Little said the agency has cooperated with the Justice Department investigation.
"If anyone thinks it's agency policy to impede the enforcement of American law, they simply don't know the facts," he said in response to the ACLU.
Then-CIA Director Mike Hayden wrote in a December 2007 memo to staff that the tapes were made as "an internal check" on the CIA's use of harsh interrogation techniques and the decision to destroy them was made "only after it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and relevant to any internal, legislative or judicial inquires."
Hayden said there were detailed written notes on the interrogations.
The prosecutor's spokesman would not comment on the status of Durham's criminal investigation into the tape destruction.
"That investigation is ongoing so we are not commenting on any specific aspects of it," spokesman Tom Carson said.
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