The Virtual Office of Congresswoman Jane Harman


Lawmaker Had Urged CIA in February 2003 Letter to Preserve Tape; Calls for Investigation to “follow the facts wherever they lead.”

January 3, 2008

Washington, D.C. Representative Jane Harman (D-Venice), Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, today released a copy of a letter she sent on 10 February 2003 to then CIA General Counsel Scott Muller, urging the Agency to reconsider its plan to destroy videotape of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah – a high-ranking al Qaeda operative and close associate of Osama bin Laden.  The text of her letter and the CIA response follow below.

Harman, who had served as Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee for a matter of weeks before the 2003 briefing, requested that her correspondence and the Agency’s response be declassified after the destruction of interrogations videotapes was acknowledged publicly by CIA Director Michael Hayden on 6 December 2007.

“Given the highly classified nature of the briefing I and others received, until Director Hayden disclosed that videotapes had been destroyed, I was unable to discuss this matter publicly," said Harman.  “However, the classified letter I sent at the time, which I applaud the CIA for making public, makes clear my concern about possible destruction of any tapes.”  Added Harman:  “It is critically important to follow the facts wherever they lead.  Clearly, White House officials were involved in discussions regarding the disposition of the tapes and Congress needs to know why key Committees may have been misled about their existence and not told they had been destroyed.”

Following her 2003 letter to the CIA, Harman continued to raise questions in “Gang of Eight” briefings about the legal basis for the Bush Administration’s detention/interrogation program but never received the legal opinions from the Justice Department that she requested.  

In February 2005, in a speech at Georgetown University, Harman publicly urged the President to negotiate with Congress on a legal framework for detentions and interrogations.  Later that year, in October, she introduced HR 3985 – The Interrogation Procedures Act – to clarify that no individual in US custody, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.  

Most recently and following the September 2006 disclosure by the President of the existence of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, Harman called waterboarding “torture” and voted for legislation to prohibit any interrogations techniques not contained in the Army Field Manual – effectively closing the loophole that allowed the CIA’s separate program to be established.

Text of Representative Harman’s letter to CIA General Counsel Muller:


February 10, 2003


Mr. Scott Muller

General Counsel

Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, DC  20505


Dear Mr. Muller:

Last week’s briefing brought home to me the difficult challenges faced by the Central Intelligence Agency in the current threat environment.  I realize we are at a time when the balance between security and liberty must be constantly evaluated and recalibrated in order to protect our nation and its people from catastrophic terrorist attack and I thus appreciate the obvious effort that you and your Office have made to address the tough questions.  At the briefing you assured us that the [redacted] approved by the Attorney General have been subject to an extensive review by lawyers at the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Justice and the National Security Council and found to be within the law.

It is also the case, however, that what was described raises profound policy questions and I am concerned about whether these have been as rigorously examined as the legal questions.  I would like to know what kind of policy review took place and what questions were examined.  In particular, I would like to know whether the most senior levels of the White House have determined that these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States.  Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?

You discussed the fact that there is videotape of Abu Zubaydah following his capture that will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry.  I would urge the Agency to reconsider that plan.  Even if the videotape does not constitute an official record that must be preserved under the law, the videotape would be the best proof that the written record is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future.  The fact of destruction would reflect badly on the Agency.

I look forward to your response.






Text of CIA General Counsel Muller’s Response to Representative Harman:


28 February 2003


The Honorable Jane Harman

Ranking Democratic Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

House of Representatives

Washington, DC  20515


Dear Ms. Harman:

           Thank you for your letter of 10 February following up on the briefing we gave you and Congressman Goss on 5 February concerning the Central Intelligence Agency’s limited use of the handful of specially approved interrogation techniques we described.  As we informed both you and the leadership of the Intelligence Committees last September, a number of Executive Branch lawyers including lawyers from the Department of Justice participated in the determination that, in the appropriate circumstances, use of these techniques is fully consistent with US law.  While I do not think it appropriate for me to comment on issues that are a matter of policy, much less the nature and extent of Executive Branch policy deliberations, I think it would be fair to assume that policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.

            I enjoyed meeting you, albeit briefly, and I look forward to seeing you again.




Scott W. Muller



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Links to the copies of the letters in .pdf format are attached below. 

Representative Harman’s letter to CIA General Counsel Muller

CIA General Counsel Muller’s Response to Representative Harman