Sunday, December 09, 2007

They KNEW and did nothing

By Libby Spencer

The destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes is dominating the blogs today so I'm not going to say a lot about it. The outrage du jour is that Congress was repeatedly briefed on the interrogation methods since 2002 and did nothing about it. As Nicole points out, the WaPo's coverage suspiciously centers on the Democrats, when at the time they were the minority party, and fails to give equal blame to the Republicans who were also in the know.

However, that doesn't excuse the Democratic leadership's failure here and in fact, the Democrat's betrayal is the more egregious. We expect the GOP to sell us out, but the Dems have been handwringing and making very stern statements of outrage about torture while some of the loudest voices of protest were tacitly endorsing the process all along. That's simply inexcusable and it's long past time for our so-called leaders to be called out on their dereliction of duty. Lambert is right. Pelosi should be removed immediately and furthermore Jay Rockefeller has got to go. He's proven to be nothing more than a GOP tool disguised as a Democrat in everything from this disaster to telecom immunity.

There's a whole lot of theories going around about why this was leaked, who leaked it and what it all means in terms of the prosecutions of those who suffered the interrogations. But the most interesting question I think, is posed by Cernig who ponders on when these tapes were actually destroyed. Cernig flags Larissa's post, who posits that the content of the coerced confessions are the most likely reason for their destruction, a theory I reported yesterday at the Detroit News. But more importantly she links to a pdf of a letter sent to court by the prosecution in the Zacarias Moussaoui case, where the tapes' existence was acknowledged only a few weeks ago.

Indeed, I found my saved link to a McClatchy report from November 9th that referenced the same letter. I thought at the time it was an under-reported story but never got around to blogging it myself. It's seems rather clear that these are the same tapes.

The government's letter said that "the CIA came into possession of the three recordings under unique circumstances involving separate national security matters," leaving unclear whether the tapes show CIA interrogations or possibly questioning by agents of another country. At least one senior al Qaida member, Ibn Sheikh al Libi, reportedly was turned over to Egyptian authorities for questioning in 2002, but much of what he allegedly confessed proved to be false. [...]

In it, they said that the CIA didn't notify them until Sept. 13 that it had discovered a videotape and the transcript of an interrogation of an unidentified detainee. Prosecutors said they then asked the CIA to perform "an exhaustive review" for any other recordings of roughly a half dozen al Qaida captives whom Moussaoui had sought as defense witnesses, and a second videotape and a brief audio tape were discovered. [...]

Among the prisoners whose testimony Moussaoui sought were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly admitted masterminding the 9/11 attacks after he was waterboarded; Ramzi Binalshibh, a senior al Qaida member who allegedly coordinated the attacks; and financier Mustafa Ahmed al Hawsawi. Summaries of statements from those three and several others were read at his trial. [...]

"The fact that audio/video recording of enemy combatant interrogations occurred, and that the United States was in possession of three of those recordings is, as noted, inconsistent with factual assertions in CIA declarations dated May 9, 2003 . . . and November 14, 2005," the prosecutors wrote.

If they are the same tapes then the CIA is lying about when they were destroyed. If they're not the same tapes, then there's apparently more video out there than anyone is willing to admit. One thing is certain. I don't think we can trust the CIA, Justice or the Intelligence committees to investigate this themselves. Biden is right. We need a special counsel for this one.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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