CIA director to testify about destroyed tapes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA Director Michael Hayden will testify before Congress on Tuesday amid Democratic fury over the spy agency’s destruction of videotapes that showed terrorism suspects being interrogated using harsh techniques.

Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday Hayden would appear before his committee to talk about interrogation and techniques.

“Were there things on those tapes that they didn’t want to have seen, that didn’t conform to what the attorney general would allow them to do?” Rockefeller asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Were they just trying to bury the general subject?”

On Saturday, the Justice Department and the CIA said they were launching a preliminary inquiry into the destruction of the tapes.

The CIA disclosed last week the tapes were made in 2002 as part of a secret detention and interrogation program that began when suspected al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaydah was arrested. The taping ended in 2002 and the tapes were destroyed in 2005.

Critics of the U.S. interrogation program say that methods like “waterboarding,” in which suspects are made to believe they are drowning, amount to torture.

Hayden said in a statement on Saturday he welcomed the inquiry in order to “address questions that have arisen over the destruction back in 2005 of videotapes.”

Democrats in control of the U.S. Congress have charged cover-up and demanded investigations into the destruction of the tapes.

Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, questioned whether top officials in the White House knew the tapes had been destroyed.

“It’s hard for me to believe that senior members of the White House somehow didn’t pay attention to this or didn’t know about it,” Hagel said on the CBS program.

The White House has said President George W. Bush, who has repeatedly denied accusations by other countries and rights groups that the United States tortures detainees, did not recall being told about the tapes or their destruction.

Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and presidential candidate, said on ABC’s “This Week” that an independent review of the affair may be necessary.

“I think the easiest, straightest thing to do is to take it out of the political realm, appoint a special prosecutor and let them decide,” said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Reporting by Nancy Waitz and Deborah Charles; editing by Mohammad Zargham