According to New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, it is also believed that the tapes were destroyed because Democratic members of Congress who were briefed about the tapes began asking questions about whether the interrogations were illegal.
“Further rattling the CIA was a request in May 2005 from Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to see over a hundred documents referred to in the earlier Inspector General's report on detention inside the black prison sites,” Mayer wrote in her book The Dark Side. “Among the items Rockefeller specifically sought was a legal analysis of the CIA's interrogation videotapes.
"Rockefeller wanted to know if the intelligence agency's top lawyer believed that the waterboarding of [alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu] Zubayda and [alleged 9/11 mastermind] Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as captured on the secret videotapes, was entirely legal. The CIA refused to provide the requested documents to Rockefeller.
Last weekend, author Mark Danner wrote in the New York Review of Books about a report prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that concluded that the abuse of 14 “high-value” detainees “constituted torture.”
“In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” according to the ICRC report cited by Danner. Since the ICRC’s responsibilities involve ensuring compliance with the Geneva Conventions and supervising the treatment of prisoners of war, the organization’s findings carry legal weight.
Before leaving office, Vice President Dick Cheney admitted in several interviews that he “signed off” on the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah and two other terrorist detainees and approved the "enhanced interrogation" of 33 detainees. President Bush also indicated that he endorsed the use of harsh interrogations.
On Wednesday, the ACLU called on Attorney General Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bush administration officials who signed off on and approved of the torture of prisoners.
“The fact that such crimes have been committed can no longer be doubted or debated, nor can the need for an independent prosecutor be ignored by a new Justice Department committed to restoring the rule of law,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “Given the increasing evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, and that such conduct was the predictable result of policy changes made at the highest levels of government, an independent prosecutor is clearly in the public interest.”