Mukasey Mum on CIA Tapes Inquiry

Attorney General denies a Capitol Hill request for investigation information.

ByABC News
December 14, 2007, 5:05 PM

Dec. 14, 2007— -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey rejected a call from Capitol Hill for information from the Justice Department's inquiry into the CIA's destruction of tapes that showed interrogations of al Qaeda suspects.

Last week, CIA Director Michael Hayden released a statement to employees, acknowledging that the agency recorded interrogations in 2002 but destroyed the tapes in 2005. The Justice Department announced days later that it would look into the matter, though it's not conducting a formal investigation.

Mukasey wrote a letter to the lawmakers, stating, "The [Justice] Department has a long-standing policy of declining to provide nonpublic information about pending matters.

"This policy is based in part on our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence. Accordingly, I will not at this time provide further information in response to your letter but appreciate the Committee's interests in this matter," he wrote.

Mukasey sent the letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and the Committee's top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Ken Wainstein, who is heading the inquiry, and other division officials met with the CIA inspector general and CIA general counsel.

Wainstein had requested to review previous CIA memoranda and the 2004 CIA inspector general report on the matter. The meeting took place at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

After months of accusing Mukasey predecessor Alberto Gonzales of playing politics at the Justice Department, several still-wary members of Congress have requested that Mukasey recuse himself from the matter and appoint a special counsel to head the inquiry, an argument he rejected in his letter to members of Congress.

"Finally, with regard to the suggestion that I appoint a special counsel, I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner," he wrote. "If I become aware of information that leads me to a different conclusion, I will act on it."