Thursday, December 06, 2007

CIA Destroys Torture Evidence

By Cernig

Tomorrow's big story was going to be Mark Mazzetti's revelation that:
The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency's custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the CIA's secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.
The reason for this destruction?
officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy
But when the CIA got wind of it, the pre-empted Mazzetti with a statement that was immediately given to media types all over the place, putting their spin in place before the story could gain traction. Brian Ross at ABC's Blotter writes:
The bombshell report...came just hours before the CIA's annual Christmas party, to which the reporters who cover intelligence issues are invited.

Given the major breaking story, it's not likely Mazzetti will be attending, although the CIA says he was invited. No members of the ABC News Investigative Unit received invitations.

The CIA pre-empted Mazetti's scoop Thursday afternoon by putting out a statement CIA Director Michael Hayden sent to all CIA employees, revealing the tapes had been destroyed and that members of the press were about to report it.
The AP has the CIA's version:
The CIA decided to destroy the tapes in "the absence of any legal or internal reason to keep them," Hayden wrote. He said the tapes were destroyed only after it was determined "they were no longer of intelligence value and not relevant to any internal, legislative or judicial inquiries."

"The tapes posed a serious security risk," Hayden wrote. "Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaida and its sympathizers."
I think Congress might have wanted to be the final seterminer of their relevancy to any investigations. The second bit is flim-flam pure and simple - especially given the happy longevity of any number of CIA operatives who have been outed involuntarily or gone public after leaving the Agency, none of whom have yet found AQ assassins on their doorsteps.

Sully speaks for many of us in reaction to this story, and notes that this isn't the first time video have disappeared. There was the infamous missing DVD of Jose padilla's interrogation too.
This is a banana republic...This administration commits war-crimes, hides the evidence from federal law officers and the 9/11 Commission and then destroys the evidence completely. Give that some time to sink in.
There are many for whom that will never sink in, no matter how long we wait.

Update In comments, Rick Moran calls me "nauseatingly callous" about the possible identification of the torturers in these vids and says I have no appreciation of the dangers gone through by Gitmo interrogators to protect my "smarmy ass".
The gratuitous and dismissive way you approach the possibility that al-Qaeda indeed might want to kill the people on those tapes is outrageous.
My response is that Rick has it bass ackwards. Defending these people's right to anonimity is what is nauseatingly callous. What is outrageous is the kneejerk "my country right or wrong" reaction which continues to enable the Bush administration's justifications for the use of such methods as torture and illegal rendition.

If they didn't want to be in video tapes of criminal actions because those vids could later be used to identify them, they could always have refused their orders. They should have refused their orders in any case and there is clear legal precedent and justification for them doing so.

They made their choices and I have no sympathy for war criminals who get publicly identified, no matter which country they hail from.

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