From Reuters: (for full text from website, click here).
U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday began investigating why the CIA destroyed videotapes that recorded al Qaeda suspects undergoing waterboarding, while a former interrogator said the controversial technique yielded important information but amounted to torture.
CIA Director Michael Hayden testified behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has launched one of several investigations to determine if the agency broke any laws when it destroyed the tapes in 2005.
"There are other people in the agency who know about this far better than I, and I have committed them to come on down and answer all the questions the committee might have," Hayden said after the hearing.
Many countries, U.S. lawmakers and human rights groups have denounced the simulated drowning technique as torture. Reports of its use, as well as harsh treatment of terrorist suspects, have damaged the U.S. image around the world.
The full House of Representatives could vote as early as Wednesday to outlaw waterboarding. Drafted by negotiators for the House and Senate Intelligence committees, the measure would require U.S. interrogators to comply with the Army Field Manual, which bans interrogation methods seen as torture.
A former CIA interrogator said waterboarding has saved lives in the war against al Qaeda.
John Kiriakou, who now works in the private sector, told several U.S. news outlets that suspected al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubaida started cooperating after being waterboarded for less than a minute by CIA officials in 2002.
Kiriakou said he now believes waterboarding is torture.
Critics have charged that the CIA destroyed the tape of Abu Zubaida, along with that of another al Qaeda suspect, to hide illegal torture. The agency has said it destroyed the tapes in 2005 to protect the interrogators from possible retaliation.
It is believed that the CIA has not used waterboarding since 2003.
The Washington Post reported that a judge had ordered the tapes to be preserved as possible evidence in a lawsuit filed by prisoners at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, where the United States holds captured terrorism suspects.
Hayden is scheduled to testify to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. The Justice Department and the CIA have started a joint preliminary investigation. Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have also urged the Justice Department to explain what it knew of the tapes.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey did not rule out investigating the White House and the Justice Department.
"We'll find out what the facts are and if there's law to be applied it'll be applied," Mukasey said at a news conference.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declined to say whether he knew about the tapes when he headed the Justice Department's criminal division between 2001 and 2003.
At a separate Senate hearing, a U.S. legal adviser at the Guantanamo Bay prison did not rule out using evidence collected from waterboarding in military trials of detainees there, irritating some lawmakers.
"Torture is prohibited under U.S. law," Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartman told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. But when California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked whether that meant that evidence from waterboarding was not used, he replied: "No ma'am, I didn't say that."
Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, called on the White House to preserve all records relating to the destroyed tapes.
President George W. Bush said he didn't know about them.
"My first recollection of whether the tapes existed or whether they were destroyed was when Michael Hayden briefed me," Bush told ABC News. "It will be interesting to know what the true facts are."
(By Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Thomas Ferraro and Tabassum Zakaria; editing by David Alexander and David Storey)