C.I.A. Chief Says Others Decided Fate of Video
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 — Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, distanced himself today from the decision to record and subsequently destroy hundreds of hours of video footage taken during the interrogations of senior Al Qaeda captives.
Speaking in public after delivering classified testimony before a Senate committee, General Hayden said that the decision to record the interrogations in 2002 was made under George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and that the destruction of those tapes in 2005 came under the watch of Porter J. Goss, who succeeded Mr. Tenet.
“There are other people at the agency who know about this far better than I,” General Hayden said after he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. General Hayden became C.I.A. director in May 2006, six months after intelligence officials have said the tapes were destroyed.
Congressional officials said today that they would likely call both Mr. Goss and Mr. Tenet before the committee as part of its investigation into the destruction of the video footage.
In a statement to C.I.A. employees last Thursday, General Hayden indicated that he supported the decision to destroy the interrogation footage. He did not reiterate that support in his public comments today, although he did not say the decision was wrong.
Congressional officials said General Hayden attempted during the session to provide a timeline of events surrounding the destruction of the tapes that he has constructed from agency records.
Emerging from the meeting, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the committee, called the hearing “useful,” but he said he still had questions about who authorized the destruction of the tapes in 2005 and why Congress was not informed at the time.
General Hayden, in his message last Thursday, said the C.I.A. had informed leaders in Congress about the destruction of the footage, which documented the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. But both Republicans and Democrats have said that they can find no record of any formal notification from the agency, and that the C.I.A. cannot point to one.
“Trouble arises, as we see with the C.I.A. tape case, when intelligence leaders refuse to comply with their constitutional duty to keep Congress ‘fully and currently’ informed,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement today.
One Democratic aide said that the Senate Intelligence Committee plans also to meet with John L. Helgerson, the C.I.A.’s inspector general, to learn about a joint, preliminary investigation of the tapes’ destruction that Mr. Helgerson is conducting with the Justice Department.
The aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because firm decisions about future witnesses had not been made, said that committee members did not want to get in the way of what could become a criminal investigation.
“We have to be very careful not to interfere with their ability to bring those charges,” he said.
In an interview with ABC News today, President Bush said “it will be interesting to know what the true facts are” after the inquiry by Justice Department and C.I.A inspector general is complete.
This president would find a turtle race "interesting." I wish I had a nickel for everything he finds "interesting." Hells Bells, he already knows all about the tapes and their destruction. He and Cheney probably have their own set. He and/or Cheney probably OKed it or ordered it. Who does he think he's fooling.
But lawmakers from both houses showed far less patience. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada delivered a blistering indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency’s decision to destroy video footage, saying the action had damaged America’s “moral authority,” and questioning whether there was a broader cover-up behind the C.I.A’s decision.
One Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, said the Justice Department inquiry was not sufficient, and asked that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appoint an independent counsel in the matter.
Mr. Mukasey indicated today that he would likely turn down such calls, saying that the Justice Department “is capable of doing whatever it needs to do.”
Like covering up the cover-up, for example?
During his first news conference as attorney general, Mr. Mukasey said that Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein, who is leading the investigation, will “go wherever the facts lead him.” Much of the news conference was dominated by questions about Mr. Mukasey’s views on the harsh interrogation technique known as waterboarding, in which a subject is made to believe he is being drowned. The issue nearly cost Mr. Mukasey his Senate confirmation after he refused to say if he considered the technique to be torture.
From now on, anyone who says that waterboarding isn't torture or that they don't know whether or not it is, should be waterboarded on the National Mall. Then, maybe they can speak with some authority on the matter, since it seems that only the actual experience of being waterboarded will be of any educational value to them.
He said today that he still had not decided if waterboarding was torture, and that he was continuing to review classified legal opinions from within the Justice Department about interrogation methods.
Legal opinions? OMG! What about just plain old common sense and one's own sense of behaving humanely toward one's fellow human beings, no matter what they have done?
Government officials have said that during Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation sessions, his C.I.A. questioners used tactics including noise, stress positions, isolation and waterboarding.
The Justice Department’s own role in the videotape episode was questioned today by the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who in a letter to Mr. Mukasey asked for a “complete account of the Justice Department’s own knowledge and involvement in these matters.”
The letter was signed by Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the panel, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee’s senior Republican. It asked for answers to several specific questions that have so far gone unanswered by Justice Department officials about whether officials had viewed the tapes or whether they were ever aware of plans to destroy them and when they were first told the tapes had been destroyed.
Elsewhere in Washington, a three-judge panel of United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a interim order today directing the government not to destroy any evidence of torture that lawyers for a Guantánamo detainee say they believe exists.
The order came after lawyers for the detainee, Majid Khan, filed a request asserting that he had been tortured while held in secret C.I.A. prisons for more than three years before he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, last year.
J. Wells Dixon, one of Mr. Khan’s lawyers, said today that he believed the judges would not have issued the order “if they did not think there was any risk” that the government might destroy evidence of torture.
Government lawyers have not yet responded to the assertions.
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The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.