Sunday, December 09, 2007

The CIA Torture Tapes

Yet another, potentially devastating scandal broke in Washington this week.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that in 2005, the CIA destroyed at least two videotapes of interrogations by American agents of purportedly major, Al Quaida operatives, during which so-called "enhanced techniques," including waterboarding were utilized.

Counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson commented on General Michael Hayden's "official" explanation that the tapes were destroyed as a security measure to ensure that the interrogators would never be exposed to potential retaliation by Al Quaida:

The Hayden excuse does not pass the bullshit test.

...Let’s be clear why these were destroyed–the chief of the Operations Division, Jose Rodriguez, understood that this was video evidence of torture. It was not the exposure of clandestine identities that had him fretting. It was the fear that CIA officers and contractors could be standing before a tribunal in the Hague trying to explain why the images of torture were not torture.

President Bush claims to have "no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their existence" before they were destroyed.

The Washington Post reports that Justice Department investigations into the destruction of the tapes are already underway:

The Justice Department and the CIA announced yesterday that they have started a preliminary inquiry into the CIA's 2005 destruction of videotapes that depicted harsh interrogation of two terrorism suspects.

The announcement follows congressional demands Friday for an investigation into the CIA's action despite warnings from the White House and congressional leaders to preserve the tapes.

Conservative writer Andrew Sullivan responds today with strong words in his article, What The Tapes Would Have Shown:

These tapes could have brought all this home to the American public and the world, revealing the president to be an active proponent of torture, even of a mentally ill man who provided nothing of any worth. They were and are critical to proving - in way that could not be denied or buried - that we have a war criminal in the Oval Office. That is surely the simplest and most obvious reason they were destroyed. And it's the most plausible reason that on a matter in which he was very personally involved, a matter where he risked being exposed as a war criminal, the president "has no recollection" of being informed about the tapes' destruction.

I've long argued that the simple facts of the detention and interrogation program leave no doubt in my mind that war crimes have occurred. I've also believed that at some point, the guilty men would be exposed and brought to justice. That may be about to happen. And it is the Congress's and the Attorney Genera's vital responsibility to see that justice is served, whomever it applies to.

For more on the destruction of the CIA torture videotapes see:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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