Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tortured Justice - Further Tales of Crimes of the Bush Adminstration

[CIA Director Gen. Michael] Hayden told agency employees Thursday that the recordings were destroyed out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. He said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for interrogators using new, harsh methods. President Bush had just authorized those methods as a way to break down the defenses of recalcitrant prisoners.
Clearly, the destruction of the tapes was meant to offer a layer of legal protection, but not for the people who conducted the interrogations, but rather for the person who authorized them.

It is worth remembering that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 already provides legal protection for any "officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the United States Government who is a United States person, arising out of the officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent's engaging in specific operational practices, that involve detention and interrogation of aliens who the President or his designees have determined are believed to be engaged in or associated with international terrorist activity that poses a serious, continuing threat to the United States, its interests, or its allies, and that were officially authorized and determined to be lawful at the time that they were conducted." While the Military Commissions Act of 2006 extended that to include the period from 9/11 to the enactment of Detainee Treatment Act.

Republicans were mostly mum about the CIA disclosure. McCain, a presidential candidate, said while campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday that he would not side with Democrats' calls for an investigation because he believed the CIA's actions were legal.

"That doesn't mean I like it," McCain added.

"Of course I object to it," he said of the tapes being destroyed. "Right now, our intelligence agencies need credibility and this is not helpful to that."

Reserving judgment on the question of whether the destruction of the tapes itself was legal, McCain is correct in that this surely further erodes the credibility of the CIA and US. But McCain surely misses the point of the investigation called for by Senate Democrats. Dick Durbin "called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to find out 'whether CIA officials who destroyed these videotapes and withheld information about their existence from official proceedings violated the law.'" Lying to Congress, specifically to the 9/11 Commission, about the existence of the tapes and then their destruction, it turns out, is clearly illegal. As is lying to a federal judge who, in the 2005 Zacarias Moussaoui case, "ordered the government to disclose whether it had video or audio tapes of specific interrogations."

It's hard not to contrast the breathtaking silence on the Right, and even the relatively low key response of the MSM, to revelation after revelation of law breaking in the current administration to the apoplexy of these same people nine years ago over Clinton's "perjury". Not 20 minutes ago, on CSPAN-2, Newt Gingrich had the cajones to defend, with a straight face, the impeachment of Bill Clinton on the grounds that perjury is a felony and the rule of law must be upheld.

The Bush Administration ordered torture - in violation of US law - lied to Congress about it - in violation of US law - ordered the destruction of the evidence - in violation of US law - and the most outrage any of the Republican presidential hopefuls can come up with is that he "doesn't ... I like it." Pathetic.

And if I may be permitted one last shot:
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Friday that President Bush did not recall being told about the tapes or their destruction. But she could not rule out White House involvement in the decision to destroy the tapes, saying she had only asked the president about it, not others.
These interrogations are supposedly at the epicenter of the so-called "War On Terror"(TM) and Bush claims to not be able to recall whether any record of the interrogations was made. Isn't it amazing how rudderless and independent the US national security apparatus becomes when they do wrong. This on the tail of claims by Bush that he was similarly out of loop on intelligence that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program - until it became public knowledge. And this version of Bush - out of touch and unaware - is the defense that the White House is offering.

Update: Destruction of C.I.A. Tapes Could Alter Prosecutions

The destruction of hundreds of hours of videotapes showing interrogations of top operatives of Al Qaeda, including Abu Zubaydah, could complicate the prosecution of Mr. Zubaydah and others, and it underscores the deep uncertainties that have plagued government officials about the interrogation program.

Officials acknowledged on Friday that the destruction of evidence like videotaped interrogations could raise questions about whether the Central Intelligence Agency was seeking to hide evidence of coercion. A review of records in military tribunals indicates that five lower-level detainees at Guantánamo were initially charged with offenses based on information that was provided by or related to Mr. Zubaydah. Lawyers for these detainees could argue that they needed the tapes to determine what, if anything, Mr. Zubaydah had said about them.

While I've no doubt that the RW Noise-o-Sphere will read this as another reason why quaint legal protections such as the right to an attorney are a dangerous luxury "post 9-11", is there any clearer evidence of the corruption of the current administration? Given a choice between prosecuting alleged terrorists and covering their asses, they chose the later.

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