No charges in CIA waterboarding video destruction

Jose Rodriguez Former clandestine CIA officer Jose Rodriguez approved the destruction of 92 interrogation tapes

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No criminal charges will be filed against CIA officials involved in destroying videotapes of harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects, the US justice department has said.

The CIA destroyed 92 tapes of al-Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri being waterboarded in 2005.

Jose Rodriguez, a former clandestine officer, approved the move out of concern the tapes could harm the CIA.

The investigation has spanned nearly three years.

Mr Rodriguez's order to destroy the tapes, which were held in a safe in a secret Thailand prison where the two al-Qaeda members were interrogated, countered instructions given to him by Central Intelligence Agency lawyers and the White House.

Investigations will continue to help determine whether CIA officers went beyond the legal advice given to them on the treatment of suspects, an official told the Associated Press news agency.

'Exhaustive investigation'

Abu Zubaydah Tapes of Abu Zubaydah being interrogated were destroyed

Jon Durham, the prosecutor assigned to the case by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, decided not to charge the undercover officers and lawyers at the CIA over the destruction of the tapes.

Matthew Miller, a justice department spokesman, said that "a team of prosecutors and FBI agents led by Mr Durham has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter".

The justice department's decision is the "right decision because of the facts and the law", Robert Bennett, a lawyer for Mr Rodriguez, said in a statement.

Mr Bennett added that Mr Rodriguez should be considered an "American hero, a true patriot who only wanted to protect his people and his country".

CIA director Leon Panetta said in a statement that he welcomed the justice department's decision.

"We will continue, of course, to co-operate with the Department of Justice on any other aspects of the former programme that it reviews," he said.

"But we are pleased that the decision was made not to charge any Agency officers for the destruction of the tapes."

The CIA began filming the interrogations of the two men to show that Mr Zubaydah was already wounded from a firefight when he was brought to the prison in Thailand. The tapes also originally aimed to prove that interrogators were following new rules Washington had laid out.

But talk about destroying the tapes immediately began circulating out of fear that if the tapes surfaced, CIA officers and contractors could be identified, according to officials.

Mr Zubaydah and Mr al-Nashiri were detained on suspicion of conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist activities.

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