Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Are the CIA torture tapes MIA?

I received my No Quarter email last evening that alerted me to a Larisa Alexandrovna question of whether the CIA torture tapes were destroyed in 2005. Larry Johnson responded:

For starters [it] appears that the June 2005 decision of the Italian judge to issue arrest warrants for C.I.A. officers and contractors involved in the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in 2003 may have been the precipitating incident convincing Jose Rodriguez that [the] Agency must destroy video tapes of terrorist interrogations. That operation was conducted with the full knowledge and approval of the Italians. If the Italians could flip on us that meant anyone could.
Then Larry laid out an extensive timeline filled with juicy details. A few to note: "Zubaydah is interrogated in Thailand, where the sessions were filmed. He was waterboarded sometime in the May-June 2002 time frame. Enhanced interrogation methods were used and approval for them came from Jim Pavitt... ...Deputy Director of Operations.... ...What we know for certain is that the CIA was keeping the President and his National Security team fully briefed on the methods and results of interrogating Abu Zubaydah. In fact, it is highly likely that George Tenet showed part of the videotape of the interrogation to the President."

That makes WH press secretary Dana Perino another willing shill for the Torturer-in-Chief who said he didn't remember "hearing about the tapes' existence or their destruction before being briefed about it last Thursday." And we can trust him because why?

On May 9, 2003, with regard to United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Larry wrote, "C.I.A. declares in sworn statement to Judge Leonie Brinkema that it was not recording interrogations of terrorist suspects in any format." Oops! Caught in a flat-out lie. If not for Bush, I'd say with certainty that someone's going to jail. After Scooter Libby, I'm not so confident.

On Nov. 14, 2005, the CIA reaffirmed the "U.S. Government does not have any video or audio tapes of the interrogations of (two terrorist suspects whose names are blacked out)” to the US District Court. Another lie.

Now let's fast forward to the 2007 portion of Larry's timeline that raises doubts about torture tapes having been destroyed.

[Keep reading...]
13 September 2007–C.I.A. notifies the U.S. Attorneys in Richmond, Virginia that it had discovered the videotape of the interrogation of terrorists whose names are blacked out in the declassified letter (see. p. 2 of the letter) [PDF].
19 September 2007–The U.S. Attorneys view the video tape. Attorneys direct the C.I.A. to search its files again for relevant material.
18 October 2007–C.I.A. provides the U.S. Attorneys with an additional video tape and an audio tape of an interrogation. The U.S. Attorneys compare the video tapes with the operational cables (i.e., written reports) reporting the results of the interrogations. They determined that the reports accurately reported what was viewed on the video tape.
This is an important point–the substance of what transpired during those interrogations was given to the Moussaoui defense team.
So. Who did what?
Jose Rodriguez has been fingered as acting unilaterally, but that is not true. He did check with both the IG and the DO’s assigned Assistant General Counsel before destroying the DO’s copies of the tapes. Although Jose is a lawyer, he made the mistake of trusting fellow lawyers, and now is likely to get chopped up in the political meat grinder while trying to clear his name and reputation. The only thing that might save him a bit is that he and Congressman Reyes are buddies, which is what Congressman Reyes may have meant when he told the NYT today that he (Reyes) “was not looking for scapegoats.”...
...Jose Rodriguez did not consult beforehand with Kyle “Dusty” Foggo. However, Jose did inform Dusty subsequently of the advice he received from the OGC’s counsel. Jose may not be in as much trouble as some imagined. If he destroyed the tapes before November 14, [2005] then the C.I.A. told the truth to the judge. The May 2003 date puts the onus on Jim Pavitt and George Tenet rather than Jose Rodriguez. They knew about the tapes and the C.I.A. General Counsel lied to a Federal Judge. Who told whom what then? That’s going to be the interesting question.
An interesting question for Michael Hayden as he testifies before the Senate and House intel committees today and tomorrow.

Where are the tapes the U.S. Attorneys reviewed in September and October of this year? Were they copies of edited versions? What about the Moussaoui defense team? What else is missing besides the tapes and the truth. So many questions yet to be answered.

On Thursday, Hayden told CIA employees that “videotaping stopped in 2002”, but another imprisoned detainee, Muhammad Bashmilah, said he saw cameras "both in his cells and in interrogation rooms, some on tripods and some on the wall." His detention began in 2003 into 2005 before his release. Adding more fuel:
In a related legal action, lawyers representing 11 inmates of the American military detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, filed an emergency motion on Sunday seeking a hearing on whether the government has obeyed a 2005 judge’s order to preserve evidence in their case.
The C.I.A.’s destruction of tapes “raises grave concerns about the government’s compliance with the preservation order entered by this court,” the lawyers, David H. Remes and Marc D. Falkoff, wrote in their motion.
The June 2005 order, signed by Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr., of the United States District Court in Washington, required the government to “preserve and maintain all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment and abuse of detainees” at Guantánamo.
Uh oh. I need to amend my order for a case of popcorn on this story.

Seriously, unless Congress appoints a Special Counsel to investigate the destruction of evidence, including millions of missing WH emails -- so much to probe -- I doubt we'll ever know the unvarnished truth and see justice served to a WH much, much worse than Watergate. Maybe that's the way they like it.