US lawmakers refuse to back down from CIA tape probe

Lawmakers rejected US administration calls Sunday to back away from investigating the destruction of interrogation tapes by the CIA, calling the spy agency 'incompetent' and 'arrogant.'

US lawmakers refuse to back down from CIA tape probe
Republican and Democratic lawmakers insisted that Congress should press ahead with its probe after US Attorney General Michael Mukasey pleaded for a delay on grounds that it could harm his Justice Department's own inquiry.

'We want to hold the (intelligence) community accountable for what has happened with these tapes,' Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican in the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News Sunday.

Hoekstra charged that the US spy agencies were beset by 'systemic' problems, including its false intelligence on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and its turnabout on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

'So you've got a community that's incompetent. They are arrogant. And they are political. And they don't believe that they are accountable to anybody,' said Hoekstra, who added that the House panel should go ahead and issue subpoenas to get CIA officials to testify.

CIA chief Michael Hayden's revelation this month that the agency had destroyed in 2005 tapes of interrogations of two Al Qaeda suspects outraged lawmakers and human rights groups, sparking charges that it was covering up possible torture.

Hayden denied that torture took place and argued that the tapes, which were made in 2002, were destroyed to protect the identities of CIA agents.

Representative Jane Harman, who as a then member of the House Intelligence Committee had urged the CIA in 2003 not to destroy the tapes, said the Justice Department's request for a delay raised questions.

'I am worried,' she told Fox News. 'It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.'

The tapes reportedly show the operatives undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique widely regarded as torture.

Mukasey, who was picked by President George W. Bush to succeed former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, had testy confirmation hearings in the Senate in October over his refusal to brand waterboarding as torture.

Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives have demanded all cables, memorandums and e-mails related to the tapes from top CIA officials.

But in his letter Friday Mukasey asked the House Intelligence Committee to put off any probe to allow the Justice Department and an internal CIA watchdog to complete a preliminary inquiry.

Mukasey, who became the country's top law enforcement official in November, said in his letter that responding to lawmakers' requests for key documents and testimony 'would present significant risks to our preliminary inquiry.'

The Bush administration has also urged a US District Court judge not to seek further information about the tapes to avoid interfering with the Justice and CIA probes, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

Judge Henry Kennedy had issued an order in 2005 asking for the preservation of evidence 'regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees' at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Post said.

But in court papers filed Friday, the Bush administration argued that the tapes' destruction did not violate the court order because the captives were being kept in secret prisons at the time, not Guantanamo, the daily said.

A magazine also reported that the country's former director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, had urged the CIA not to destroy the tapes after meeting with then agency chief Peter Goss in 2005.

But the CIA's then chief of the National Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez, decided on his own authority to destroy them later that year to protect the agents, Newsweek reported, citing current and former US officials.

Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Aralık 2007, 12:54
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