Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 11, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

WHO KNEW?....A "former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the episode" tells the New York Times that lawyers within the clandestine branch of the CIA approved the destruction of those videotaped interrogations in 2005:

The former intelligence official acknowledged that there had been nearly two years of debate among government agencies about what to do with the tapes, and that lawyers within the White House and the Justice Department had in 2003 advised against a plan to destroy them.

....In describing the decision to destroy the tapes, current and former officials said John A. Rizzo, the agency's top lawyer at the time, was not asked for final approval before the tapes were destroyed, although Mr. Rizzo had been involved in discussions for two years about the tapes.

...."Although unlikely, it is conceivable that once a C.I.A. officer got the answer he wanted from a D.O. lawyer, he acted on that advice," said John Radsan, who worked as a C.I.A. lawyer between 2002 and 2004 and is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota....Mr. Radsan added, "I'd be surprised that even the chief D.O. lawyer made a decision of that magnitude without bringing the General Counsel's front office into the loop."

Let me get this straight. The White House had been in the loop for two years. The CIA had received letters from both the Justice Department and congressional leaders arguing that the tapes shouldn't be destroyed. The CIA's top lawyer had been involved for the entire time. And yet we're supposed to believe that, in 2005, a mid-ranking agency lawyer suddenly decided the tapes could be destroyed and the head of the clandestine branch then gave the order to do so without anyone else being involved? Really? Does anyone actually believe this story?

Kevin Drum 1:23 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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Comments

I would believe almost anything from this administration in terms of haphazard or irrational sounding decision trees.

Posted by: Pinko Punko on December 11, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

The CIA has from its beginning been about deniability. "Mission: Impossible" was, of course, fiction, but "if any member of your team is killed or captured, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions" was not; it's the way spooks operate.

I'm sure that the White House gave the CIA a wink and a nod, enough to let them know the evidence should disappear, but nothing so direct as to cause a problem later on.

Posted by: Joe Buck on December 11, 2007 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, government's a big institution. You can't expect everyone to read each others' minds and implement policy as one unit. Tomorrow the FDA might invade Guatemala. You never know.

Posted by: anonymous on December 11, 2007 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone actually believe this story?

No.

This has been another edition of SATSQ.

[sorry, kevin. couldn't help it]

Posted by: jcricket on December 11, 2007 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK


Kevin, I claim we are NOT "supposed to believe" the administration's story. Transparently phony explanations are always intended to demonstrate the explainer's POWER, not his innocence.

"You know I'm lying, I know you know I'm lying, and you know I know you know I'm lying, but you haven't got the balls to do anything about it."

That's the mind-game being played by the Bushies. If their transparently phony story gets accepted by their wingnut base, that's just a collateral benefit.

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on December 11, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

In some way this reminds me of Henry II's words to his barons to "rid me of this meddlesome priest [Thomas a Becket]". And the CIA barons do this in the most direct manner, only to have Henry say that he didn't want him actually killed. Harriet Meiers is just the person to show plausible deniability. I'll bet that the White House is happier the tapes were destroyed.

Or maybe the CIA was embarrassed by its part in making the Bushies lose face over the NIE and felt that it had to show that they can screw up too to take away some heat from the Iran intelligence debacle.

Posted by: natural cynic on December 11, 2007 at 3:08 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Does anyone actually believe this story?"

Counsel is clearly leading the witness.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 11, 2007 at 4:04 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe their story.

Then again, I bet the tapes still exist. And this story is a way to keep the tapes off future evidentiary demands on future indictments.

Posted by: jon on December 11, 2007 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

No - at this point the trust in both the Executive Branch and the Legislative branch has been damaged. What the Gang of 8 new and when they new it and what they knew about it, should also be investigated. How can Sen. Rockefeller and others properly conduct an investigation on themselves. It is time for a special counsel...someone with integrity. Does someone have Pat Fitzgerald's phone number?

Posted by: george on December 11, 2007 at 6:31 AM | PERMALINK

A competent DOJ, White House, or CIA General Counsel would have secured those tapes, so that an unauthorized or "accidental" destruction could not have taken place.

Why the tapes were kept after transcription is the real mystery, they damn sure would never be used in court as evidence. Perhaps they were used as training aids for interrogators, or as entertainment for the more sadistic, almost equally frightening scenarios.

This story is approaching the point where any more information(true or not) just serves as obfuscation. The competing accounts combined with the real classification issues only ensure that this story will be as confusing to the media as Plamegate.

Posted by: Anon on December 11, 2007 at 6:34 AM | PERMALINK

Larisa Alexandrovna says the tapes may not have been destroyed:

http://www.atlargely.com/2007/12/i-ask-again-whe.html

Posted by: pol on December 11, 2007 at 6:55 AM | PERMALINK

The tapes were destroyed, but do copies in a non-tape format exist? You bet your idealistic, progressive ass they do. Someone, somewhere knows exactly where those incriminating discs are & is just waiting for sufficient monetary inducement to outweigh their partisan fidelity. If enough money is offered the evidence will inexorably emerge. Can we now start the bidding at 10k?

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on December 11, 2007 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

In some way this reminds me of Henry II's words to his barons to "rid me of this meddlesome priest [Thomas a Becket]".

I wouldn't mind seeing George W. Bush walk to Langley barefoot, wearing sackcloth and ashes, to be flogged by undercover CIA operatives . . .

Posted by: rea on December 11, 2007 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, someone "took the initiative" and destroyed the tapes... tradition takes hand.

Posted by: thomas on December 11, 2007 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone want to bet that there's a DVD copy in Darth Vader's "man-size security vault"?

Posted by: Snarkilicious on December 11, 2007 at 7:53 AM | PERMALINK

My first thought was of Becket myself.

DanJoaquinOz, this has been my thought as well. If these tapes were made as part of some review then where are the reports? Was it strictly an oral review?

Posted by: jhm on December 11, 2007 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

"Becket" my eye.
"King of the Underworld" was reputedly Al Capone's favorite gangster movie, because it featured a crime boss who worked entirely by inference:
"I don't think Luca's really cut out for this line of work. He should think about retirement."
And then the hit was made.

(Insert variation on "Be a shame if anyone sees those tapes" here.)

Posted by: Steve Paradis on December 11, 2007 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Does anyone actually believe this story?"

Yes - USA Today, the WaPo editorial board, CNN, and the AP...

Posted by: GMF on December 11, 2007 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Tony P gets it. The same logic goes for torture as well. "We do not torture" is and will always be the official line, no matter how obvious it is that we do in fact torture, but they want it to be obvious that we're doing it even as they deny it. Because the ultimate point of torture is and always will be power, not information. "We can do it to anybody" is the message, "so don't step out of line." Or as Cheney's chief of staff recently put it: "Push and push until we meet a force big enough to stop us." The language of people who believe in nothing but power.

Posted by: DrBB on December 11, 2007 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Video evokes more passions that snapshots. The reaction to these tapes would have been far worse than Abu Graib. No way could they chance that the public would ever view them.

Posted by: bakho on December 11, 2007 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

No.

Posted by: David W. on December 11, 2007 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

No.

Posted by: jayackroyd on December 11, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

This is the same government you want to take over the health system.
Think about it.

Posted by: Orwell on December 11, 2007 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK


I do!

Posted by: Dana on December 11, 2007 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Agreed with Tony P, this is just the arrogance of power of the Bush administration. "Sure we broke the law. What are you going to do about it?Nothing, are you." followed by mad cackling. Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi does exactly what those criminals expect, rolls over and plays dead.

Posted by: freelunch on December 11, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell, this is the government I want in jail, Bush, Cheney and the criminals who did their bidding. I have no idea why you think that paying for health care has anything to do with this or why you think that the criminality of the Bush administration is an excuse not to have the government pay for health care. Presumably, you do not think.

Posted by: freelunch on December 11, 2007 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Amen, freelunch.

To slightly paraphrase Dante: 'The warmest corners of Hell are reserved for those, who in times of crisis, maintain moral neutrality'

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 11, 2007 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

I bet the guys at the Corner do and wonder why the mean left wing media is even reporting on this.

Posted by: bitter on December 11, 2007 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget the real story, people. What's actually on the tapes is not the issue. Everybody knows what's on them; CIA agents waterboarding some members of al Qaeda. So whether copies still exist and what exactly they show is irrelevant - in fact, if you make the story about that, you lose.

This is about 2 things: (1)the wanton lawlessness of this administration, and more importantly, (2) the destruction of the tapes lets the cat of the bag that they of course KNEW that waterboarding was torture.

Posted by: Cheney's Third Nipple on December 11, 2007 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

It took them two years to find a lawyer to agree to this? Why didn't they just waterboard one?

Posted by: azportsider on December 11, 2007 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Those Regent University law school graduates are everywhere.

Posted by: Brojo on December 11, 2007 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

the republican party, usa: proudly serving you ad hoc law since november 2000!

Posted by: english teacher on December 11, 2007 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

All the discussion is on who authorized the destruction of the videotapes and who did it. What I see missing is answers to the questions: who created those tapes and why did they do it?

Has anyone paid a price for making the tapes? Was it a routine decision that got applied in an instance that later became controversial?

Posted by: Rick B on December 11, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Come on White House Press - Ask Perino how MANY times Bush watched the Tapes prior to going to bed?

Posted by: RobertSeattle on December 11, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Does anyone actually believe this story?"

It doesn't matter if anyone believes it. The Democrats will, in the end, accept it. Just as they've accepted pretty much everything the GOP wants.

Face it people. Most of our elected Democrats are on the same page as the GOP. That's why nothing really changes.

Posted by: zak822 on December 11, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Side issue:

Tapes? Why tapes? Why was the CIA using 30 yr old technology at a time when even jr high school plays were being recorded directly to digital media.

No wonder they suck.

Posted by: Keith G on December 11, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone actually believe this story?

I do. Especially this bit:

. . . C.I.A. officials had continued to press the White House for a firm decision, and . . . the C.I.A. was never given a direct order . . .

That is, the White House wanted the CIA to destroy the tapes, and to avoid taking responsibility for their destruction; and in the end it got its way.

Posted by: rmd on December 11, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I am enjoying watching this battle between the Whitehouse and the CIA.

Skirmishes should continue for some time before all is revealed.

I predict the spooks will win!

Posted by: optical weenie on December 11, 2007 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

In the spirit of the season:
Yes, Virginia, lawyers at the CIA do exist.
And never, never would they tell a lie.

Posted by: clio on December 11, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone actually believe this story?

It sounds exactly like the CIA. What's not to believe?

Posted by: Jane on December 11, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

This, in conjunction with WaPo's Congressional "They all knew" smear, makes it appear that "Operation Mockingbird" is once again running at full throttle.
.

Posted by: Poilu on December 11, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney's_Third_Nipple at 10:04AM says:
"What's actually on the tapes is not the issue. Everybody knows what's on them; CIA agents waterboarding some members of al Qaeda."

What everybody DOESN'T know is what those members of al Qaida SAID under torture. It would be awfully embarassing to both the CIA and the Bushies if it turns out that the "intelligence" collected under torture was mostly bullshit.

Some Americans are cowardly enough to say to their government: "Protect my personal ass from them Islamofascist terrists, and I don't care who you torture to do it." Even cowards of that stripe might abandon Dubya, if it turns out that torturing al-Qaida "masterminds" never actually "saved lives". If the cowards do abandon him, Dubya's base will be reduced to its essential core: the sadists. Well, the masochists too, I suppose.

-- TP

Posted by: Tony P. on December 11, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

CIA analysts moved to DoD/NSA. The tapes were probably destroyed when they moved. Congress already tried to close CIA and that's why they moved to DoD. Operations is still arguing over domestic powers like Plame used on domestic groups at NSA. Operations at DIA do not have the same domestic power the CIA does.

Putin's new friend is from Harvard like Fitzgerald and his IIPAs in Afghanistan(Kennedy, Chayes, USAID by Shays). Harvard is already losing USAID funding for their IIPAs and USAID is funding the students seperately from universities. Castro went to Harvard and he did great and they all helped Plame's IIPA problems from 95 when Ames was arrested; for the USAID money, but Putin's new pal has CIA all over him. He's probably one of Fitz's IIPAs like the ones in Afghanistan and it looks like he'll be out of office real fast.

Fitz should invoke an investigation to see who blew his IIPA at Harvard.

Posted by: FRD on December 11, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Tread lightly Tony P - or Brian the Banal will be castigating you for calling out your fellow Americans who have those wide yellow stripes. Apparently, we aren't supposed to call cowards cowards in his POV. That's what he told me last night, anyway. (Of course, I can't imagine his yellow ass in formation, and I think I'm glad of it.)

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 11, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone actually believe this story?

Hell, does anyone actually believe that all copies of the tapes were actually destroyed?

I'm sure that there are copies in the Oval Office safe that GWB brings out every time Cheney comes to visit.

Posted by: Disputo on December 11, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

This was buried in the Washington Post on Sunday:

Only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 -- by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding -- did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent. The opposition reached a boiling point this past October, when Democratic lawmakers condemned the practice during Michael B. Mukasey's confirmation hearings for attorney general.

What is up with that? If we don't waterboard anymore, what is all this hullabaloo all about?

Posted by: Mark on December 11, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

What is up with that? If we don't waterboard anymore, what is all this hullabaloo all about?

So Mark, say some one beat your mother badly last year and got away with it. Now a likely suspect has been found who swears they have changed their ways. What do you want the police to do?

Posted by: Keith G on December 11, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

If we don't waterboard anymore, what is all this hullabaloo all about?

If your conclusion makes no sense, perhaps you should reevaluate your premise.

Posted by: Disputo on December 12, 2007 at 1:10 AM | PERMALINK

Keith G asks: "Tapes? Why tapes? Why was the CIA using 30 yr old technology at a time when even jr high school plays were being recorded directly to digital media."

Cuz tapes are harder to copy and distribute, thus easier to destroy.

There's generally a REASON why governments with access to sophisticated technology sometimes use obsolete stuff. There was a famous incident in the Cold War -- 1978, maybe -- when a Soviet Mig pilot defected with his plane to Japan. When the plane was examined, it turned out to still have vacuum tubes in its radios. Doves hooted that the Soviets were clearly no risk, since they were so technologically backward.

But the revelation scared the shit out of more serious people, because it explained why the guy was allowed to defect with the plane without being shot down: the Soviets were deliberately showing us that they were prepared to actually fight a nuclear war. (Vacuum tubes are more resistant to EMP disruption. In a nuclear war the electromagnetic pulse of the blasts would immediately disrupt all command and control by severing communications, unless they were hardened by techniques like... vacuum tubes.)

I still don't know any good reason WHY the CIA would have recorded torture sessions. I mean, think of the conversation: "We need to train our operatives in torture techniques. Tape the next session.... but Boss, what happens if the tape falls into the wrong hands?"

But that it was done on tape rather than a DVD? Hell, it'd have been on YouTube by now.

One other thing -- Slate has an excellent piece on what difference even the knowledge this video existed would have had on the debate over the past couple years: read it.

Posted by: theAmericanist on December 12, 2007 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

"This is the same government you want to take over the health system.
Think about it."

No, Orwell, it is the current Administration that is so incompetent, not "Government" in the abstract. Basically, all the other first-world governments in the world provide better healthcare than we do. Are poeople against our government doing the same, implying that Americans are uniquely incabable of doing that?

tyrannogenius

Posted by: NB on December 12, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yo, thanks for the information, I was wanting to know if you knew, or could send me a url towards badger population spread in England? Oh, how can I register to your website?Ta.

Posted by: Alfonso Mracek on January 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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