from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 2
January 7, 2009

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The destruction by Central Intelligence Agency officials of videotapes showing the interrogation of suspected terrorists is the subject of "an ongoing criminal investigation" that is expected to conclude in the near future, according to a prosecution official.

"Investigators are now in the process of scheduling interviews with the remaining witnesses to be interviewed in this investigation," wrote John H. Durham, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in an affidavit late last month. "Based on the investigative accomplishments to date, we anticipate that by mid-February 2009, and no later than February 28, 2009, we will have completed the interviews."

His remarks came in the course of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the James Madison Project for documents pertaining to the CIA videotape destruction. The government asked for a stay of the FOIA proceedings until witness interviews are completed. At a hearing on January 6, the request for a stay until February 28, 2009 was granted by the court, said attorney Mark S. Zaid, director of the James Madison Project.

Key details of the pending criminal investigation have been redacted from Mr. Durham's affidavit, including the number of witnesses interviewed and the volume of documents examined to date. But the affidavit does provide a sense of the level of activity involved, indicating that "a considerable portion of the work to be done in connection with the investigation has already been completed."

Mr. Durham noted that "in many instances," delays have resulted from witness requests for legal representation and the need to get witness attorneys cleared. In some cases, the government officials involved have retired and have been "read out" of the highly compartmented intelligence programs in question, and it has taken additional time to have their security credentials reinstated, he said.

A copy of the December 31, 2008 CIA motion for a stay, with Mr. Durham's affidavit, is here:

The destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes, which occurred in 2005, was reported in the New York Times on December 7, 2007.


The Central Intelligence Agency did provide a copy of intelligence files relating to the Bay of Pigs to President Nixon in response to his request, an official of the National Archives and Records Administration said yesterday. He said that the statement to the contrary in Secrecy News on January 5, citing the new book "Family of Secrets," was in error.

"The CIA did not refuse the Nixon administration's request for records on the Bay of Pigs and other topics," John Powers of the National Archives said. What happened, rather, is that "[DCI Richard M.] Helms insisted that if the President wanted these records, he would only give them to the President himself."

"There is a fascinating Oval Office taped conversation of this meeting in October 1971 that is publicly available. You can hear Helms putting the papers down on Nixon's desk," Mr. Powers said.

He identified the conversation as tape number 587-7 dated October 8, 1971. "Helms enters during [Ehrlichman's] briefing and they quickly change the topic, then get down to the issue of the papers."

Mr. Powers added that the CIA papers provided by DCI Helms to President Nixon are contained in Boxes 36 and 37 of the John D. Ehrlichman files at the Nixon Presidential Library.

Mr. Powers said that some of the material may have been declassified and released since he departed from the Nixon Project nearly two years ago. "But my recollection is that most of the two [Ehrlichman] boxes were still classified. They are awaiting a researcher to file a Mandatory Declassification Review request."


The Congressional Research Service has issued -- but has not publicly released -- a new report on "Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India, and Implications for U.S. Interests," December 19, 2008.

The history of official secrets legislation in the United Kingdom is set forth in a new memorandum from the UK House of Commons Library, which also provides background on notable cases involving unauthorized disclosures of secret government information (flagged by See "Official Secrecy," December 30, 2008.

The challenges and benefits of improving intelligence sensor data integration are discussed in a new joint report from the Defense Science Board and the Intelligence Science Board. See "Integrating Sensor-Collected Intelligence," November 2008.

A 1957 account of centrifuge research in the Soviet Union by Austrian physicist Gernot Zippe, translated (and partially redacted) by the Central Intelligence Agency, is now available online. See "The Problem of Uranium Isotope Separation by Means of Ultracentrifuge in the USSR," 8 October 1957.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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