Justice and CIA Launch Investigations into Destroyed Tapes

On a Saturday, the Justice Department and the CIA announced that they would conduct internal investigations of the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes.  The announcements are clearly designed to forestall an effort to have an independent counsel or independent investigation, which is clearly called for in this instance.

As noted earlier on this site, there are at least six indictable offenses alleged and at least a dozen potential suspects in this alleged conspiracy.  Given the involvement of the White House and the CIA, it should be obvious that an independent investigation is needed.  After all, the Justice Department at least appointed a U.S. Attorney from Chicago in the Libby affair.  This scandal is a hundred times more serious than the Libby matter.

The CIA internal investigation is hardly worth discussing.  The CIA has a long history of whitewash investigations and lacks any credibility in this matter.  The Justice Department, however, is little better in its own record of policing its own conduct.

This is not some speculative charge of misconduct.  On its face, there are obvious indictable offenses here.  The matter should be investigated outside of the Justice Department and the CIA.  Yet, there are many in Congress — including some Democrats — that want to give the appearance of an investigation while allowing the matter to die with time.  A Justice Department investigation guarantees that the matter will proceed as a glacial pace under the control of the Bush Administration.  Thus, the rush to announce their own investigation.  It is really an announcement that no one else will investigate by occupying the field.  As for Congress, any serious investigation would be a departure for both parties. The scandal is now being “managed” in a classic beltway fashion.  What will be lacking is any serious intent to do anything about these alleged crimes. 

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15 thoughts on “Justice and CIA Launch Investigations into Destroyed Tapes”

  1. Rafflaw,
    Have you ever read ‘Jonathan Turley, “From Pillar to Post”: The Prosecution of American Presidents, 37 American Criminal Law Review 1049, 1064-66 (2000’?

  2. I’ll take this one…

    The place to start, ideally, is on the same page, as it were.
    For purposes of discussion, here, it’s called the Constitution of the United States.

    Try reading it, why don’t you?

    Specifically, the Bill of Rights. It speaks for all, and includes the States Rights through the 10th Amendment.

    Our precious document applies to all branches of government
    – the Judicial, the Legislative, and the Executive, including
    the Military acting under its (‘lawful’) Order.

  3. It would appear Professor Turley’s recommendation concerning an independent counsel is shared by Senator Biden.

    He did a press release today calling for the appointment of one.

  4. I get the impression that you believe that
    lawyers and judges not Presidents and congress should run military affairs. A lawyer for every POW . What a lawyer full employment approach that would be . Before
    an FDR could defend the USA he would have
    to get the approval of the US Supreme Court.

  5. Thank you, Anonymous for the two posts above.

    I hope Professor Turley will make at least brief comment.

    Of current interest also is Senator Whitehouse’s recent speech concerning the declassified Office of Legal Council’s opinion concerning whether the Executive is bound by its own previous Executive Orders. That is worthy of some comment since it bears tangentially on this whole mess.

  6. Prof Turley,

    Thank you for your legal work, many public appearances before our courts, and your fine legal writing and scholarship. In 2000 you wrote, “Pillar to Post” about how a sitting President could be prosecuted, outside Congress, outside impeachment. [ Cite: Jonathan Turley, “From Pillar to Post”: The Prosecution of American Presidents, 37 American Criminal Law Review 1049, 1064-66 (2000). ]
    You wrote above, “Yet, there are many in Congress — including some Democrats — that want to give the appearance of an investigation while allowing the matter to die with time.”

    Congress does not appear serious about putting pressure on either DoD, CIA, or DOJ to get to the bottom of these alleged offenses: How the data was collected; who destroyed the tapes; and who within DoJ-CIA-DoD have copies/transcripts of the allegedly destroyed tapes.

    What is your view of applying your “Pillar to Post”-model — that of prosecuting Federal officials outside impeachment, through the State AG-level — as a means to wake up Members of Congress, not permit this investigation to die away, and really have some oversight?

    I appreciate any comments you may have in [a] how your “Pillar to Post”-article may or may not shed light on [b] how these issues which the DNC-GOP have agreed to “do nothing about” might awaken the Congress: There are options outside Congress, outside impeachment that can prosecute a sitting President, VP, or Member of Congress for alleged misconduct/criminal conduct while in office. Thank you.

    A. “Federal preemption” does not appear to oblige the states to assent to refusals of the US government officials to enforce the law. Rather, as with the FISA litigation issues, State AGs can enforce State (privacy) law, regardless the decision of US government officials to block enforcement of the FISA.

    B. In this case with the CIA tape destruction, a state-led prosecution of the President/VP/Member of Congress would ensure that the President could not block a DoJ investigation; or that if Members of Congress attempted to enforce a contempt citation, that the threatened inaction of a US Atty would have any bearing. The state-level AG effort could be supplemented by a state-level-effort to impanel grand juries, outside the US Government ability to block/interfere.

  7. Contractor Transcription Service

    On these tapes: Normally, there’s a DoJ contractor who provides translation services at GTMO. Let’s assume CIA “Destroyed” the tapes. Has anyone considered asking for the transcription-tape sent to the contractors who translated the audio. And where is the transcript of the tape?

    Taping Procedures Failed To Include Protection of CIA Agent?

    This isn’t adding up. There are too many transcriptions floating around, the chance the contractors have a copy (or a transcription). Or are we to believe they “were” following procedures to destroy the tape; but they created procedures — before they shot the video/interrogation — that would not include protecting the CIA agent identity? It doesn’t make sense they’d have written procedures to “destroy” the tape; but “no” procedures — before the videotaking occurred — to ensure the CIA agent-interrogator identity was protected.

  8. Patty, I’ll put my money on your horse any day. I think you’re probably dead-on. We’re not talking about erasure, either–they had to have learned the lesson from the attempts to recover the 18 1/2 minute gap back in 2001-2003. They would likely have to physically destroy the tape. I’m wondering if that’s a deviation from standard practice, even for tapes that might cause security issues.

    Unless it was all done digitally, in which case there’s either a hard drive or simcard with the info on it, or someone went through one hell of an effort to remove all traces of the tapes’ existence.

    I just can’t fathom this being SOP, which would indicate a desire to destroy evidence of criminal activity (or, in more ominous terms, specific intent).

  9. Jonathon,

    I left another comment at that previous post discussing Sibel Edmonds that perhaps you didn’t see (in blog parlance, perhaps it was EPU’d.)

    Would you be willing to do a phone interview discussing Sibel’s case and the abuse of the SSP?


    Joy, Yep, Waxman’s behaviour regarding Sibel’s case is appalling.

  10. Joy,

    Indeed a spooky report. The deaths of the principles in short order IS frightening.
    The content would indeed be damaging.

    Patty C,

    Yes, you are right. It would be very surprising if a backup didn’t exist somewhere.

  11. Frankly, I’m not that willing to believe the tapes have actually been destroyed.

    I’ve learned through bitter past experience, just because THEY say
    it, doesn’t make it true!

    I have little doubt that if it suddenly became in the interest of ‘someone important enough’ to have those tapes surface, they would somehow be miraculaously resurrected from the abyss of abuses.

  12. I heard Waxman on Ring of Fire also today, Deeply Worried and reacted the same way you did. I’m also disappointed in him because he won’t let Sybil Edmonds testify in front of his committee. What’s up with that???

    As to this destruction of the tapes, evidently this is more about what was found out from the torture – or more accurately after the torture, more than the torture itself. Check out this : http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/12/7/183319/766/707/419308

    This is spooky!

  13. “The scandal is now being “managed” in a classic beltway fashion. What will be lacking is any serious intent to do anything about these alleged crimes.”

    So noted.

    I have lost almost all hope that the current majority party is going to do anything toward substantive action against the Executive.

    It is baffling, infuriating, and pitiful by turns this inaction.

    Waxman (Henry not Seth) spoke of denying the nation its civic lesson because it would instead be a “political disaster” for the Democrats were they to try impeachment and it would be ultimately unsuccessful to boot.

    I thought the oath he swore was to uphold the Constitution and not the mere success of his political faction.

    It matters not a whit that impeachment be successful or not. The issue is to follow the law and uphold the Constitution.

    My question to the Congressional Democrats is simply this: At this point, what conceivable crime of the Administration would warrant you ignoring the short time left in office of the criminals and the fact that you would not likely get your Senate votes? How many laws must be broken, how many Constitutional freedoms circumvented, how many public lies have to be told, how many offenses against the separation of powers have to be committed—-
    to get you to act? What would it take?

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