WASHINGTON — The CIA destroyed a dozen videotapes of harsh interrogations of terror suspects, according to documents filed Friday in a lawsuit over the government's treatment of detainees. The 12 tapes were part of a larger collection of 92 videotapes of terror suspects that the CIA destroyed. The extent of the tape destruction was disclosed through a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government.
Heavily redacted papers filed in the case indicate a dozen destroyed tapes show so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
The CIA's enhanced interrogation methods are secret, but they once included waterboarding, which simulates drowning.
As part of the Bush administration's response to the 2001 terror attacks, the CIA held fewer than 100 prisoners at secret sites and used harsh interrogation methods on about one-third of them, according to agency officials. Former CIA director Michael Hayden has acknowledged that waterboarding was used on three suspects.
The ACLU's lawsuit on detainee treatment has been on hold while a separate criminal investigation was conducted into the destruction of the tapes.
The criminal investigation includes interrogations of al-Qaida lieutenant Abu Zubaydah and another top al-Qaida leader. Tapes of those interrogations were destroyed, in part, the Bush administration said, to protect the identities of the government questioners at a time the Justice Department was debating whether or not the tactics used during the interrogations were legal.
That probe is now winding down, and government lawyers signaled earlier this week that they would begin providing some of the answers the ACLU had been seeking.
Government lawyers say they will provide a further accounting of other records relating to the tapes later this month.
The documents offered Friday were mostly redacted. A list of the tapes is almost completely blacked out.
ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh criticized the government for "needlessly withholding information about these tapes from the public, despite the fact that the CIAs use of torture _ including _ is no secret."
In his first week as president, Barack Obama signed an order prohibiting the CIA from using coercive interrogation techniques that already are banned by the Pentagon. He also ordered the closing of secret CIA "black site" prisons abroad where terror suspects have been held.