WASHINGTON — CIA director Leon Panetta told a federal judge Monday that releasing documents about the agency's terror interrogations would gravely damage national security.
Panetta sent a 24-page missive to New York federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein, arguing that release of agency cables describing tough interrogation methods used on al-Qaida suspects would tell the enemy far too much about U.S. counterterrorism work.
The CIA director filed the papers in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit has already led to the unveiling of Bush administration legal memos authorizing harsh methods, among them waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning, and slamming suspects into walls. The suit also has resulted in a fight over releasing long-secret photos of abused detainees.
Panetta acknowledges in the court papers that the CIA destroyed 92 videotapes of detainee interrogations that took place in 2002. Officials have previously said a dozen of those tapes showed the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, which critics call torture. The destruction of the videotapes has spurred a criminal investigation into why they were destroyed.
The tapes — and the interrogations — are also an issue in the ACLU's lawsuit.