Sunday, December 09, 2007

The CIA Interrogation Tapes

More outstanding blogging offline by Mike Williams. All I've done is add some bolds and a few parentheticals.


The outrage of the Dems at the destruction of the 2003 CIA interrogation tapes is palpable.

Here’s a good example:

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy called the CIA move a cover-up. "For the past six years, the Bush administration has run roughshod over our ideals and the rule of law," Kennedy said.

For four years, Kennedy said, the Republican-controlled Congress stood by idly, but since the Democrat-led Congress started to hold the administration accountable "it is feverishly covering up its tracks. We haven't seen anything like this since the 18 1/2-minute gap in the tapes of president Richard Nixon."
Except that the tapes were destroyed in 2005, a year before the 2006 elections in which the Dems took control of Congress.

And, apparently, their destruction was a compartmentalized decision made by the agency’s chief of clandestine services, against the advice of Congress, the White House, and the CIA itself.

So since Kennedy has brought up Watergate, do you recall “What did they know, and when did they know it?

If you’ve followed the links above, it seems clear that Congress knew all about the tapes and about the CIA’s desire to destroy them. What’s not clear is if/when they were told that the tapes had indeed been destroyed.

As for the White House, it seems Bush himself didn’t know they were destroyed until he heard about it last Thursday from CIA Director Michael Hayden (who was not the Director in 2005). So overall, it’s probably appropriate for the Justice Department to look into this and see if they can figure out who knew what when.

All that said, as Bill Kristol reminded us on Fox News Sunday:
( Williams' paraphrasing) We just don’t know what was on those tapes. They may have revealed sources and information that could have jeopardized current and future clandestine operations, embarrassed friendly governments, and put at risk the lives of agents and sources.
And then there’s this surprising WaPo report:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody.

For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange….
Captain Ed Morrissey comments:
This puts a completely different light on the controversy. While Democrats -- and a few Republicans -- in both chambers of Congress have railed against the White House for supposed torture, in reality Congress willingly supported the procedure in over two dozen briefings. Only one person raised any objection during two years of using the procedure.

That doesn't settle the question as to whether waterboarding constitutes torture, but it certainly calls into question the notion that politics has nothing to do with the debate.

The CIA stopped using waterboarding after 2003, and apparently have only used it on three detainees: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and an unidentified al-Qaeda prisoner.

Only well after the practice had been abandoned did Congress raise objections to its use, and then never acknowledging their own acquiescence to it earlier. That lack of honesty allowed them to paint themselves as shocked, shocked! that waterboarding had been used as an interrogation technique…. ( Ds and Rs lacking in honesty? Who would have believed it? -- JinC)
Over to [University of Tennessee Law School] Professor Glenn Reynolds [at his Instapundit blog]:
Lots of people who were talking tough back then subsequently changed their tunes -- out of either a sudden flowering of scruples or an unprincipled desire to go after the Bush Administration with any weapon that came to hand.

But, you know, if you're going to say "it was different back then," it really has to be more than just an all-purpose excuse for politicians. It's also a reason not to hang people out to dry for doing what politicians, and the public, wanted back then, when things were so "different."

Your call, but Jules Crittenden notes: "Next thing you know, someone’s going to say the Clinton co-presidency thought Saddam had a nuclear program and backed regime change."
Yeah, and showing videos like this. Unfair!
Be sure to watch that video.

And to borrow a quote:"This ongoing selective outrage by the Congressional overseers is ridiculous. No kidding."

Thanks, Mike, for a great post.


Mike said...


That was a paraphrase from Kristol, not a direct quote. I should have made that clearer in my email.

JWM said...

Got it fixed.

Thanks, Mike.


Anonymous said...

Is it standard policy for the CIA to destroy evidence pertainent to criminal trials? Why were these tapes specifically chosen?

The reason given above doesn't make sense because many of the photos and memos at the CIA must reveal the nature of practicies and identity of agents.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

Senator Teddy is oh so outraged about missing information, erased tapes and (nifty smokescreen) the Nixon 18-1/2 minute gap.

I say there, Senator, let's have some details about all the political strings you pulled to paper over the events that drowned Mary Jo Kopechne. And when you're done, why don't you have your fellow Senator (D, MA) come clean about his military records in Viet Nam, and his Winter Soldier behavior.

Some of us Americans believe that an intelligence agency in wartime needs to act clandestinely, not as a public exhibit under a microscope. More of us would avoid Kopechne-like sudden deaths were that the case.