Democrats Admit Knowledge of the CIA’s Plan to Destroy Tapes

Two leading Democrats, Jane Harman and  Jay Rockefeller admitted that they knew that the CIA intended to destroy the tapes of interrogations of a leading al-Qaida figure, but never knew for sure that the destruction was carried out.  The startling news raises serious questions of acts of malfeasance by the Bush Administration and nonfeasance by Democratic members.

In his defense of this breathtaking decision to destroy evidence being sought in federal courts, Gen. Hayden claimed: 

“The tapes posed a serious security risk,” Hayden wrote. “Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from al-Qaida and its sympathizers.”

 The important thing to remember is that in 2002, many people were publicly discussing criminal charges for those who carried out the president’s orders to torture suspects.  I testified in Congress about criminal acts that appear to have been ordered by the President and wrote about the fact that both illegal surveillance and torture are criminal offenses.  Indeed, Administration officials complained about such threats for its employees.  The decision appears to have been to destroy the evidence — despite the fact that the tapes were being sought by federal courts and would most certainly be sought in future proceedings in Congress and the courts.

These Democratic members appear to have had knowledge of both the official use of torture (which is a crime) and the stated intention to destroy evidence (which is also a crime).  Yet, again, they remained totally silent and passive. They remained silent and passive even while courts were lied to by the government in high-visibility cases.  They remained silent and passive even as a public debate swirled around these very issues.<

Moreover, if Democratic members knew, so did the President of this plan.  It now remains up to the untainted Democrats to act and demand answers from everyone, including their own party.  This is a matter that raises serious criminal allegations that run from officials engaged in torture to government lawyers engaged in false statements to a president who ordered the commission of an act defined as a war crime.  While the Democrats have struggled to protect the President from a confrontation on torture (as with the Schumer and Feinstein vote on Mukasey), they will now need to protect themselves against their own constituents.  

13 thoughts on “Democrats Admit Knowledge of the CIA’s Plan to Destroy Tapes”

  1. Nothing makes my gloomier for the prospects of America then being shown repeatedly that we have no serious opposition party in America. The Bush Administration does essentially whatever it wants (as you are Al-Timimi and Al-Arian’s counsel, though, I hardly have to tell you that) and the Democrats maybe hem and haw slightly before giving in, even if giving in means actively helping to circumvent the law. I realize lack of moral courage among politicians is common, but this goes beyond that into the realm of almost physical terror of one’s political adversaries.

  2. I heard Randi Rhodes’ recent interview with Mr. Turley where he suggested a disturbing and yet an all too reasonable explanation of the Dems’ inaction on such Constitutionally heinous and impeachable offenses as wiretapping without FISA warrants, torture, US Atty’s firings and all their other misdeeds, now to include the destruction of evidence, of this administration. It’s so simple—the fix is in.

    It appears the Congressional Dems are assuming that the folks who gave them their majority in order to confront the administration on Iraq and these other illegalities will vote them in again despite avoiding not only their responsibility to their supporters, but their responsibility to the US Constitution. They will do anything–or nothing as the case may be–to avoid an impeachment investigation during an election year.

    An example is not pressing Judge Mukasey on “waterboarding” as torture. Had the Senate forced Mukasey to answer the question it would have triggered an inquiry as to why the President authorized an illegal act–an impeachable offense.

    This is a VERY dangerous political gamble meant to not ruffle mid-America’s feathers and to protect their fellow denizens of DC politics.

    I, for one, deeply resent it.

  3. I’d say many of these players are compromised, possibly through early acts as co-conspirators. It’s also possible that they have certain habits or behaviors that the administration has become aware of thanks to being able monitor their actions. Remember that Sen. Rockefeller covered his own ass when he wrote that letter to himself about the warrantless surveillance?

    ‘July 17, 2003
    Dear Mr. Vice President,

    I am writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today with the DCI, DIRNSA, and Chairman Roberts and our House Intelligence Committee counterparts.

    Clearly the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues. As you know, I am neither a technician or an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.

    As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter’s TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveilliance.

    Without more information and the ability to draw on any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received.

    I am retaining a copy of this letter in a sealed envelope in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure that I have a record of this communication.

    I appreciate your consideration of my views.

    Most respectfully,

    Jay Rockefeller’

    This thing is going to hit a wall eventually, the laws of physics can only be delayed for so long. Such Democratic incumbents have known about these practices all-along, but many of them either signed security agreements where they would be jailed if they revealed the practices, and/or they approve of them whole-heartedly.

  4. This is a very serious criminal act with potentially very serious consequences for quite a few people.

    A three-way struggle between Congress, the Vice President’s circle, and the intelligence community.

    I actually want to belie my pessimist reputation and suggest that Attorney General Mukasey may agreeably surprise us in his upcoming role.

    My completely outsider, out-of-the-loop take on him is that such goings on as this tape destruction offends him, and that he will soon issue some orders that will justify Senator Schumer’s trust in him.

  5. By destroying the tapeas — and “removing” the record of the interrogation — the DOD has contradicted itself: It no longer has the means to justify why it held GTMO POWs without prospect for trial. The argument was: “We cannot let them go because we need to interrogate them. They still have intelligence value.” But by destroyign teh CIA tape, how can anyone claim “the intelligence value” of that prisoner (as measured by the data on the tape) would justify the detention without trial?

    Tape destruction means the arguments behind the detention without charges goes out the window.

  6. How difficult would it be to “call in the troops” in the form of
    State Attorneys General at this stage?

    I have a phone, and I’m not afraid to use it.

  7. Patty C:

    It will be interesting to see how some Democrats will be able to leave the appearance of outrage while conspicuously avoiding serious action. There are many members who want to see a true investigation and will go wherever it may lead. However, any investigation will rough up some members.

  8. As adults, in life, if one is willing to take the credit, one must also be willing to take the blame.

    I used to look at the Democrats decision not to push for impeachment as some sort of misplaced sense of having ‘taken the high road’ to not spend valuable time, energy, and money as the Republicans had with Clinton over the Lewinski scandal. As if there were any comparison to be made between that waste of time, energy, and money and the repeated constitutional insults Bush and his gang have perpetrated upon the American people.

    Knowing what we know, to pursue action before they all ‘slip outta town’ in January of 2009, would be time well spent, in my view.
    Perhaps the best in eight years!

  9. Unfortunately, even among the democrats, statesmen are far outnumbered by elected representatives with suspect motives. I have been an activist for democratic causes in the past but I’m discouraged by the actions of Schumer, Feinstein and the blue dogs.

  10. They (the Dems) will need some kind of strong coercive external support. For the life of me I can’t figure out what can be done to break the perpetual check they are in.

    And neither can they apparently.

  11. I count at least six indictable offenses and about a dozen likely defendants. The question is whether democrats will help the White House again off the track of this rapidly approaching train.

  12. Perhaps I was too generous.

    My historical sense is less than what it should be, but I recall that there were eras like those following both world wars where extremely repressive acts were carried out by the government or where demagogues swept away opposition by setting up the simple “with us or against us” false choice.

    What we found out then was that moral and political courage are not the common patrimony of our elected representatives. In fact the opposite is true.

    It is somewhat disheartening to realize our own generation is no different- that our representatives are of no sterner stuff than of those that enabled the outrages of the past.

    It really is not a partisan issue, only a human characteristic of all times. Humans attack in numbers and retreat in numbers. Sole standouts are rare.

    This has been an era of retreat for those who would follow the laws of the land and respect the constitution. But the retreat is coming to an end.

  13. During this era the law was subordinated to concerns over public safety.

    That’s the only plausible explanation as to why otherwise honorable representatives like Harman and Rockefeller, and more recently, Schumer and Feinstein, would act as enablers of torture.

    They must have been convinced that torture was the only way to prevent mass loss of life.

    Yet, the moral stain will always remain, both on our national honor and on the consciences of all who participated in this most odious of all human behaviors.

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