Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mukasey in the Hot Seat

During his confirmation hearings last fall, new Attorney General Michael Mukasey pledged to act independently and swore that he would not hesitate to pursue investigations that might displease the Bush administration.

A month in, he is faced with calls for an investigation into the destruction of video of interrogations of terror suspects that show the men being tortured. Such an investigation would delve into the heart of darkness itself, and expose some of the most closely guarded secrets of the Bush administration, highlighting the "aggressive interrogation" favored - nay lusted after - by the small men in the administration for what it is: Torture.

Torture is a crime against humanity, under treaty as well as international statute.

Last week, Senator Dick Durbin (D - IL) officially requested the Attorney General open an investigation into the destruction of the tapes. "The CIA apparently withheld information about the existence of these videotapes from official proceedings, including the 9/11 Commission and a federal court," Durbin charged in the letter he sent to Mukasey.

But this story just keeps getting weirder and weirder:
Justice officials refused to comment on what the new A.G. will do, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that if he does open an investigation, the White House would support him. The videotapes, made in 2002, showed the questioning of two high-level Qaeda detainees, including logistics chief Abu Zubaydah, whose interrogation at a secret cell in Thailand sparked an internal battle within the U.S. intelligence community after FBI agents angrily protested the aggressive methods that were used. In addition to waterboarding, Zubaydah was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One [FBI] agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute. [emphasis added]
Yes. You read that right. An FBI agent was so put off by what he witnessed, he threatened to take the CIA interrogators into custody. And when an FBI agent threatens to arrest CIA agents,it is safe to say that the CIA agents have definitely crossed a bright line.

Officials with the CIA claim that the decision was made three years ago to destroy the tapes. The "reason" the CIA gives for the destruction is laughable: The identity of the torturers interrogators might pose a security risk if the tapes were to leak.


Spare me.

The identity of the interrogators might pose an incarceration risk.

And if they were acting on orders from the White House, they would most likely say so before they went to prison for a long time for committing war crimes.

The CIA destroyed the tapes in spite of requests for records of interrogations by multiple entities, includign the Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9/11 Commission. Representative Jane Harman, then the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee had also submitted a written directive that videos of interrogations be preserved.

Additionally, in the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui , defense attorneys requested any video of interrogations, but the CIA told a Federal judge that no videos existed. (Got Perjury? Hows' about Obstruction of Justice?)

A thorough investigation into the destruction of the video tapes by the Justice Department would be undertaken with one goal: Find out who issued the orders and make that person accountable. Porter Goss was the CIA Director at the time, and thought he had an "understanding" with ops officials that the tapes would be preserved. He reportedly was extremely unhappy when he learned that the tapes had been destroyed. Meantime, Jose Rodriguez, who as head of the Clandesting Service at the time and issued the destroy order has a reputation as a "loyal subordinate" who would never have taken it upon himself to make such a decision.

Whoever ordered that the tapes be destroyed, all eyes are on Mukaey now.

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