December 11, 2007

"They never told us, 'Hell, no.' If somebody had said, 'You cannot destroy them,' we would not have destroyed them."

CIA lawyers cleared the destruction of the interrogation tapes.

26 comments:

EnigmatiCore said...

I thought I read an article last week where they were advised by some in the administration and some in Congress not to destroy them.

The article mentioned one being Harriet Miers, if I recall correctly.

I guess she didn't guess that the magic words were "Hell, no" and not just "No."

Roger said...

Someone posted another explanation for the destruction of the tapes--I think it was a quote from David Frum which suggested that the terrorists gave up some members of the Saudi royal family who patronized AQ and the 9/11 plot and some Pakistanis--all of whom came to untimely deaths within a fairly short period of time. Of course, CIA stupidity in making the tapes in the first place, and then talking about their destruction in the second place might be the better application of Ockham's razor, but there is certainly at least one alternate explanation.

MadisonMan said...

As this is -- what -- the second or third or fourth explanation put forth about the tapes' destruction, I think I'll just wait to see if more explanations are set forth before commenting.

Roger said...

MM: I agree, although in general I am willing to go with stupidity. And, of course, we will never know, I don't believe, what the real reason is. And as far as I know, the alternate explanations have not appeared from government sources.

B said...

Lawyers!

Can't live with 'em, and can't live . . . .

Titan said...

enigmaticore, you used the word "advised". (Correctly, I believed) I think the CIA said, "Well, we were advised by Congress and the Atty General not to destroy these tapes, but that's not an official order so screw them."

Revenant said...

The article mentioned one being Harriet Miers, if I recall correctly.

The CIA answers to Mike McConnell, not to Harriet Miers.

I agree, although in general I am willing to go with stupidity.

I don't see what was "stupid" about it, from the CIA's point of view. What negative consequences are they going to suffer, that would have been worse than seeing the tapes on the 5 o'clock news?

Fred said...

Yeah, the CIA is very good about following the rules. Shame on you guys for making them seem like they did something evil.

Roger said...

Rev asks what was stupid about it--quite a few things, IMO, Rev: (1) inability to keep the existence of the tapes a secret (2) inability to airbrush or otherwise make the identity of the questioners known (the justification for their destruction), (and forget we know who one of the questioners was--he just had an ABC interview) and (3) inability to keep the destruction of the tapes a secret. This is the CIA who presumably routinely handles state secrets all the time.

Now, as has been suggested, the information about the tapes destruction could have an entirely different foreign audience, and were this the case, the CIA might not be as stupid as they look--

Titan said...

"What negative consequences are they going to suffer, that would have been worse than seeing the tapes on the 5 o'clock news?"

ummmm, PRISON?

There is a strong argument that this constitutes obstruction of justice.

Verso said...

I think the Republican Party has finally come to terms with the fact that what America needs in this period of history is strong, authoritarian government, with power and information centralized in the hands of the executive.

We have played the game the way the liberals wanted for far too long, with "checks and balances" and the so-called "free press," which is really just another term for "MSM" or "liberal media," and look what it got us. 9/11 and the dhimmification of America.

The only hope to preserve our nation is to entrust its protection to a strong leader who will do what has to be done. We shouldn't be letting technicalities like "due process" or even the Constitution -- it's just a piece of paper, after all -- interfere with what we know we have to do to fight the enemies we have both at home and abroad.

Revenant said...

(1) inability to keep the existence of the tapes a secret

(3) inability to keep the destruction of the tapes a secret.

I fail to see how that makes them stupid. It simply isn't possible to keep that sort of thing secret in a democracy in which the intelligence service answers to the legislature. I would say that they realistically knew the tapes wouldn't remain secret -- Washington leaks like a sieve and Congress has been bleating about waterboarding for years now. They did what was best for themselves given the assumption that the tapes, if kept, would inevitably go public.

(2) inability to airbrush or otherwise make the identity of the questioners known

Keeping an altered copy of the tape and destroying the originals would land them in the same situation they're in now.

This is the CIA who presumably routinely handles state secrets all the time.

Yes, but unfortunately they have to tell Congress and the executive branch about them. And the typical reaction of Congress to being told vital intelligence information is to immediately pick up the telephone and tell the New York Times about it.

Revenant said...

ummmm, PRISON? There is a strong argument that this constitutes obstruction of justice.

So make it, then.

hdhouse said...

Abandon all hope and obviously abandon all reason and logic ye who enter here.

Is this the new motto of the CIA?

Titan said...

You should have the ability to make the argument for yourself. Check the "obstruction for justice" link to read an overview of what it entails.

SGT Ted said...

Were the tapes or the CIA under a subpoena to keep the tapes? If not, I don't buy the obstruction of justice charge being more than political bomb throwing.

Titan said...

Again, read through the link.

"Obstruction charges can also be laid if a person alters or destroys physical evidence, even if they were under no compulsion at any time to produce such evidence."

Revenant said...

You should have the ability to make the argument for yourself.

I read the link and you're pretty obviously wrong, as destroying the tapes did not "interfere with the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors, or other (usually government) officials".

"Obstruction charges can also be laid if a person alters or destroys physical evidence, even if they were under no compulsion at any time to produce such evidence."

That refers to evidence necessary to an official investigation. No such investigation was, or is, taking place for which those tapes constitute physical evidence. A million Democrats screaming "waterboarding = torture = illegal!" does not an investigation make.

So like I said -- if you think there's an argument to be made that they obstructed justice, make it.

Balfegor said...

The only hope to preserve our nation is to entrust its protection to a strong leader who will do what has to be done. We shouldn't be letting technicalities like "due process" or even the Constitution -- it's just a piece of paper, after all -- interfere with what we know we have to do to fight the enemies we have both at home and abroad.

What are you, a Rooseveltist? Rooseveltism's time has come and gone, consigned to the ash-heap of history! Avaunt!

On topic, the fact that the CIA is bungling their disclosure so badly destroys the last shreds of confidence I had in their professionalism and competence. I mean, it looks like some members of Congress were informed about the destruction at one point, but kept it under wraps even though they disagreed. And then some blabby CIA man let it slip. Congress kept the secret better than the CIA. That's just incredible.

Titan said...

No, Revenant, you're "pretty obviously wrong." I do this for a living.

Have you heard of Enron and Arthur Anderson? In that case, upon hearing rumors that the government was interested in Enron's accounting methods, AA began shredding documents. They stopped when an official investigation was opened by the SEC. AA was prosecuted for obstruction of justice even though there was no investigation when they destroyed the documents.

All Congress has to do is open an investigation asking whether the tapes showed the CIA torturing people. At that point, the destruction of the tapes will certainly interfere with the investigation - as having the tapes would make the investigation much easier. It doesn't matter that there was no investigation when the tapes were destroyed. If it crossed the CIA's mind that "Hey, maybe we should get rid of these so that we don't get in trouble" then there is a strong argument that justice was obstructed.

Pretend, just for a second, that you possess a tape that shows you committing a murder. Do you really think that destroying the tape is OK because no murder investigation has been opened yet? Do you really think destroying the tape wouldn't interfere with the murder investigation once it is opened?

Revenant said...

No, Revenant, you're "pretty obviously wrong." I do this for a living.

What, make unsupported claims on the internet? How's that pay?

? In that case, upon hearing rumors that the government was interested in Enron's accounting methods, AA began shredding documents.

I've highlighted the relevant section that distinguishes the Enron situation from the CIA one. Now, it may be that you think the CIA destroyed the tapes because they'd heard that might be the target of a future investigation. But you've no evidence to support that belief.

All Congress has to do is open an investigation asking whether the tapes showed the CIA torturing people.

Under the definition you're using, if I throw out my family photos I am "obstructing justice" because it is hypothetically possible that some government official might, possibly, be interested in them at some point in the indefinite future. That's not what obstruction of justice is. I don't know what the "this" is that you claim you do for a living, but it obviously has nothing to do with the law.

Titan said...

No, I work at a law firm in NY where we often advise people on destruction of documents.

You have no reason to think that your family photos are evidence of a crime. Part of the mens rea (the guilty state of mind) that you need is the thought "The police might one day be interested in these."

Now, did the CIA have that thought? I don't know, that would be part of the investigation. But the NY Times article suggests they were concerned enough to ask lawyers for their opinions - AND they still destroyed the tapes even after the White House and the Justice Dep't advised them not to.

Titan said...

Can't spend any more time on this. Come back and apologize once an investigation starts.

"Could there be obstruction of justice? Yes."
~Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

SGT Ted said...

oh. Right. Chuck Hagel is an unbiased source.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

No, I work at a law firm in NY

As the janitor, maybe. The odds that a person with an actual legal background would be as clueless as you are remote.

Now, did the CIA have that thought? I don't know

And there we have it. You said this:

There is a strong argument that this constitutes obstruction of justice.

Now, as has been established, obstruction of justice requires that either (a) there be an investigation in progress (which there wasn't) or (b) that the destroyed documents have been destroyed in order to hinder a probably future investigation.

We know that (a) isn't true. You just admitted you have idea if (b) is true. Therefore you cannot make an argument that this was obstruction of justice at all, let alone a "strong" one. The best you've come up with is that they (gasp) talked to lawyers about whether or not they had to keep the tapes. Talking to a lawyer isn't evidence of wrongdoing, as any actual lawyer would know.

"Could there be obstruction of justice? Yes." ~Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

When you're reduced to quoting Chuck Hagel to support your argument, you've lost.