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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal prosecutors will investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes showing agents interrogating terrorism suspects, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Wednesday.
Lawyers for several Guantanamo detainees say the government has defied orders to preserve evidence.
Prosecutors and FBI agents will try to determine whether any laws were broken after a preliminary inquiry found enough evidence to pursue possible criminal charges.
The CIA admitted last month to videotaping the questioning of al Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in 2002.
The tapes reportedly showed rough interrogation techniques, including the use of "waterboarding," which simulates drowning.
Mukasey said he has appointed John Durham, a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut, to lead the investigation.
The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the CIA is located, typically would investigate, but Mukasey said he tapped Durham because federal prosecutors in the Virginia district already are probing the intelligence community.
The CIA "will of course cooperate fully with this investigation as it has with the others into this matter," said Mark Mansfield, a spokesman for the agency.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said the tapes were destroyed in 2005 because national security could have been compromised by revealing the identities of the interrogators.
The administration argues that the tapes of the two interrogations were technically not covered by a judge's order to preserve "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay" because Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were not held at Guantanamo at the time of the order.But lawyers for several other Guantanamo prisoners fighting their detention in federal courts said the government defied similar orders to preserve evidence that could clear their clients of wrongdoing.
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