WASHINGTON - The Justice Department and the CIA`s internal watchdog announced Saturday a joint inquiry into the spy agency`s destruction of videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists as the latest scandal to rock U.S. intelligence gathered steam.
The review will determine whether a full investigation is warranted.
"I welcome this inquiry and the CIA will cooperate fully," CIA Director Mike Hayden said in a statement. "I welcome it as an opportunity to address questions that have arisen over the destruction back in 2005 of videotapes."
The House Intelligence Committee is launching its own inquiry next week. It will investigate not only why the tapes were destroyed and Congress was not notified, but also the interrogation methods that "if released, had the potential to do such grave damage to the United States of America," said Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, on Saturday.
"This administration cannot be trusted to police itself," Reyes said.
The Senate Intelligence committee is also investigating.
Hayden told agency employees Thursday that the recordings were destroyed out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. He said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for interrogators using new, harsh methods authorized by President Bush as a way to break down the defenses of recalcitrant prisoners.
The CIA`s acting general counsel, John Rizzo, is preserving all remaining records related to the videotapes and their destruction. Kenneth L. Wainstein, an assistant attorney general, asked that they be handed over along with any relevant internal reviews.
Justice Department officials, lawyers from the CIA general counsel`s office and CIA Inspector General John Helgerson will meet early this coming week to begin the preliminary inquiry, Wainstein wrote Rizzo on Saturday.
Helgerson has been highly critical in classified reports of the agency`s treatment of detainees. In October, the CIA confirmed that a close Hayden aide was reviewing his work, raising concern on Capitol Hill that the independence of the office was under attack.
The White House had no immediate comment.