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December 07, 2007

The Tapes

It's really not comforting news that the CIA has been destroying interrogation tapes in order to ensure their more brutal interrogation methods are never exposed to oversight. It's even worse when you hear "the tapes were made to...serve as an internal check on how the interrogations were conducted," and yet the interrogations were such that the tapes had to be erased in order to protect those involved.

What's really weird about all this is that a cadre of senior Democrats knew about the tapes and their destruction, and didn't say anything, didn't leak anything, didn't exercise any oversight whatsoever. But you can be sure they'll be releasing anguished press releases later today. I don't feel surefooted enough on this issue to offer much comment, but Spencer Ackerman is providing full court coverage of all this over at TPM Muckraker.

December 7, 2007 | Permalink


This could convince some crazy extremist fringe elements that the CIA is an organization with perhaps a bit of a checkered history. But of course they should not conclude that.

Posted by: El Cid | Dec 7, 2007 12:22:14 PM

Democrats. Are. Pathetic.

Just not as corrupt as Repukes.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 | Dec 7, 2007 12:22:54 PM

Harman and Rockefeller aren't worth a bucket of lukewarm shit. But we've come to expect that from Dems 'entrusted' with seniority on the Intel Committees.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Dec 7, 2007 12:33:32 PM

"really not comforting... really weird"

"Not comforting"? "Weird"? Really, Ezra.

And is anyone actually surprised that Democrats like Rockefeller and Harman knew about this and didn't say anything? These are career politicians with cozy lives as top Democrats, regardless of how many Iraqis we're killing or who's getting tortured by the CIA. What do they have to gain by leaking this kind of information, versus what they potentially have to lose if that leak backfires? Nobody here is so naive as to think these people have some idealistic belief in the intrinsic value of human life, and would therefore alert us to torture and administration wrongdoing out of the goodness of their hearts?

Posted by: Christmas | Dec 7, 2007 12:43:33 PM

Rockefeller did the exact same thing with the domestic spying case. Sent a private letter and called it a day. Worthless.

Posted by: mad6798j | Dec 7, 2007 12:44:41 PM

This also leads to another issue. People today make fun of Mike Gravel as a crazy old man, but when it came down to it, he did play a role in the release of the Pentagon Papers. We'd be better off with more people like him in the Senate today.

Posted by: mad6798j | Dec 7, 2007 12:51:51 PM

...where by "weird" I believe you mean "grimly predictable."

Posted by: Doctor Memory | Dec 7, 2007 1:08:00 PM

And by "brutal interrogation methods" you mean "torture." Can we all just use the damn word?

Posted by: Persia | Dec 7, 2007 1:24:20 PM

Hey, the GOP missed a money-making opportunity! They could have sold these torture tapes to their base for big bucks so their armchair torturists could experience 'the thrill of victory' vicariously (or wanked to the view as often as they needed to).

The image I have in my mind is the cameraperson taping the torture. It is sort of like being the photog for a porn vid of the snuff variety. I bet they have sweet dreams.

There's also a profit opportunity on TV that was missed. With the 'reality' shows being the major source of revenue to the TV networks (low cost of production, large audiences, lots of advertisers), we could be treated to "The war on terrorism: Torture Our Way to Victory!" weekly. They could even have audience participation in selecting runoff torturers (oooh, I like THAT technique) competing for sweeps-week performances done "ALL NEW - LIVE" in the White House Situation Room.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Dec 7, 2007 1:54:07 PM

Folks get a clue. Revealing classified information is a crime, no matter how damaging it might be to the other side.

At the best of times exercising oversight over Intelligence is nearly impossible, you just have to trust that the politicians will not be able to willfully railroad the intelligence professionals, the system is simply not strong enough to resist people like Big Dick. In this instance Rockefeller and Harman were helpless onlookers, unable to find any legal way to push back beyond documenting their opposition.

Abu Gonzales might have been slow off the ball prosecuting intelligence links from the White House, I doubt he would have been slow at all prosecuting members of Congress for violating laws about classified material. You don't have to like it. Suggesting that the right way to fight back against a law breaking administration is breaking the law in turn just takes you down the muddy road of false equivalence 'they did it too!' 'they did it first!'. Is the widespread Republican practice of turning everything into equivalence fair? No because in context nothing the Clinton Administration did remotely parallels what Bush/Cheney has done. But does the tactic work? Of course it does.

Many people on the Left simply assert that there is some Magical Political Fairy Dust out there that allow all considerations of Political Reality to vanish. Well sorry politics at times is messy. (Which is why Bush largely rules by decree every opportunity he can.)

Rockefeller is not in politics for the money, he doesn't need it. Nor does his record suggest he is just out to protect his class interest. He took on a difficult job that comes with a set of legal handcuffs. For people to demand that he should have pulled a Houdini is kind of unfair, you can't always get yourself out of a legal and political bind.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Dec 7, 2007 2:08:19 PM

Revealing classified info is a crime, but so is destroying evidence of a possible crime. Come on, this kind of thing is egregious. I'm not looking for a houdini, I'm looking for a Senator who will stand up when he is privy to information that a member of the executive branch is destroying evidence of wrongdoing. Is that really too much to ask?

Posted by: mad6798j | Dec 7, 2007 2:56:58 PM

Have to agree with mad679, it's instances like this where you need someone to have the personal sense of mission to stand up and risk legal action to get the truth out. Otherwise, how can the practice of torture ever be brought to book?

Posted by: Meh | Dec 7, 2007 3:50:41 PM

...the interrogations were such that the tapes had to be erased in order to protect those involved.

Juping to some conclusions here, aren't you? I would expect the CIA to keep the identities of the interrogators secret. Isn't that what the CIA does? Keep secrets?

What's really weird about all this is that a cadre of senior Democrats knew about the tapes and their destruction, and didn't say anything, didn't leak anything...

It appeared to them to be standard operating procedure. The CIA is not the Dems' production studio.

Posted by: El viajero | Dec 7, 2007 4:08:21 PM

"It appeared to them to be standard operating procedure. The CIA is not the Dems' production studio."

Not according to the lawmakers in question. Harman claims she thought it was wrong, and counseled against it, but then did nothing because it was classified.

Posted by: mad6798j | Dec 7, 2007 4:32:04 PM

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