Saturday, December 08, 2007

When Were The Tapes Destroyed?

By Cernig

The destruction of CIA video tapes showing interrogations of detainees that included waterboarding is rightly drawing a lot of criticism from both Right and Left. Especially since the CIA and administration's excuses for doing so are changing so rapidly. We've had "trust us, there's nothing on the tapes" and "we were afraid the courts Al Qaeda would identify the torturers" and even, today, "it was only one guy's decision".

Other than those who are so blinkered that if Bush said he roasted babies on spits they would break out their BBQ sauce recipes and swear they'd always been partial to infant flesh themselves, even normally loyal conservatives are beginning to figure out there's something rotten about the Bush administration and it ain't individual apples.

Today, the foxes agreed to review whether to investigate themselves.
The Justice Department and CIA announced a joint inquiry Saturday into the spy agency's destruction of videotapes of interrogations of two suspected terrorists.

The review will determine whether a full investigation is warranted.

"I welcome this inquiry and the CIA will cooperate fully," CIA Director Mike Hayden said in a statement. "I welcome it as an opportunity to address questions that have arisen over the destruction back in 2005 of videotapes."
And here's where the story takes a new twist. We've been led to believe all along that the tapes were destroyed back in 2005 when the order to do so was given. But Larisa has noticed something in a letter from the DOJ dated October 2007 to the judges hearing the case against Zacarias Moussanni which talks about the very same vdeo tapes.
On September 13, 2007 an attorney for the CIA notified us of the discovery of a video tape of the interrogation of [redacted]. On September 19, 2007 we viewed the video tape and a transcript [redacted] of the interview. the transcript contains no mention of Moussanni or any details of the September 11 plot. In other words, the contents of the interrogation have no bearing on the Moussanni prosecution. The existence of the video tape, however, is at odds with statements in two CIA declarations submitted in this case, as discussed in detail below.

After learning of the existence of the first video tape, we requested the CIA to perform an exhaustive review to determine whether it was in possession of any other such recordings for any of the enemy combatant witnesses at issue in this case. CIA's review, which now appears to be complete, uncovered the existence of a second video tape, as well as a short audio tape, both of which pertained to interrogations [redacted]. On October 18, 2007, we viewed the second video tape and listened to the audio tape, while reviewing transcripts.(emphasis mine - ed)
The letter is signed by David Novak and David Raskin, Assistant United States Attorneys, on behalf of United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg.

These are obviously the same tapes, being viewed by DoJ assistant attorneys, in September and October of this year. Clearly, protestations of clean hands outwith the CIA are so much careful parsing of language. Equally clearly, neither the DoJ or CIA are competent to review their own quibblings. Finally, the DoJ's viewing of the tapes so late in the day leaves the claim that senior administration officials were uninvolved in the affair flimsier. At the very least Gonzales should have known.

And that leaves one big question - so when were the tapes destroyed? Obviously it was sometime within the last month and a half.

Update Effwit, in comments, points to a WaPo article that seems to say these are different tapes from the ones destroyed in 2005 and may still exist. They appear to be the only ones left, if so, out of "hundreds of hours" of tape. However, that seems to be an assumption by journalists rather than an explicit pronouncement by any government official. No-one in government has explicitly stated that they aren't the tapes currently in question or whether these tapes were destroyed too. Could someone in the media actually directly ask administration officials about them in connection to the disappeared tapes, please? And then could Congress subpoena them, rather than taking DoJ's word that they contain nothing relevant, please. Thank you.

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