9/11 Commission Chairmen Believe CIA Impeded Inquiry by Withholding Interrogation Tapes

The two chairmen of the Sept. 11 commission said they believe the CIA deliberately impeded the panel's inquiry by withholding interrogation tapes of Al Qaeda suspects, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The Times reported that the commission made repeated requests in 2003 and 2004 for documents and information about Al Qaeda interrogations from the CIA and were told the agency had "produced or made available for review" everything the panel requested.

But a review was conducted in early December after the disclosure that the CIA two years ago had destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of suspected terrorists, and chairmen Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean told The Times it seemed the agency made a conscious decision to obstruct their inquiry.

Click here to read the New York Times article.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield on Saturday issued a statement saying that "the CIA went to great lengths to meet the requests of the 9/11 commission and provided the commission with a wealth of information.

"Because it was thought the commission could ask about tapes at some point, they were not destroyed while the commission was active," Mansfield said.

"As Director [Michael] Hayden pointed out in his December 6th statement, the tapes were destroyed only when it was determined they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative, or judicial inquiries."

A CIA official told the Times that the agency was prepared to hand over the videotapes, but that the commission never specifically asked for interrogation videos.

The Times reported that the panel's former executive director Philip D. Zelikow concluded in a seven-page memorandum that "further investigation is needed" to determine if the CIA violated federal law by withholding the videos.