Criminal Investigation of CIA Video Destruction is “Ongoing”

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 (pdf) 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 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.

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