The CIA destroyed the tapes in November of 2005. When congress was notified and in what detail remains unclear.

Multiple investigations have begun into who approved the decision to destroy the tapes and why.

One of the recorded interrogations was the "waterboarding", or simulated drowning, of Abu Zubaydah, suspected to be a senior member of al-Qaeda


The leader of the CIA team interrogating him said it was necessary to use the technique to extract information from suspects in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

John Kiriakou, now retired, told ABC News he had no knowledge that the session was being recorded or that the tapes were subsequently destroyed.

"We are Americans and we're better than this and we shouldn't be doing this kind of thing"

John Kiriakou, former CIA agent
"He was able to withstand the waterboarding for quite some time - about 30-35 seconds," he said.

"[A] short time afterwards, in [the] next day or so, he told his interrogators that Allah had visited him in his cell at night and told him to co-operate because his co-operation would make it easier on the other brothers who'd been captured."

When asked if the waterboarding broke Abu Zubaydah, Kiriakou said: "I think it did, yes."

He said the use of the technique, which critics have cited as evidence of US torture, provided information to disrupt up to a dozen attacks.

"We are Americans and we're better than this and we shouldn't be doing this kind of thing.

"But at the same time, what happens if we don't waterboard a person and we don't get that nugget of information? I would have trouble forgiving myself."


Meanwhile, the CIA has said it no longer uses waterboarding and the Bush administration has repeatedly denied authorising torture.

George Bush, the US president, said CIA procedures were safe, lawful and necessary.

Human-rights groups say, quite to the contary, that it is clearly torture.

International law defines torture as "an act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him ... information or a confession."

But when asked about the use of waterboarding, Dick Cheney, said: "Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives? Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticised as being the vice president for torture.

"We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."