Wednesday, December 19, 2007

CIA to Release Videotape Docs to Senate Committee

Originally posted at Daily Kos

In a turnabout, the CIA said "it would begin handing over documents to Congress about the destruction of videotapings showing the harsh interrogation of two terror suspects after the House Intelligence Committee threatened to subpoena two agency officials," according to a breaking story from Associated Press.

This comes after the bombshell revelations earlier yesterday that at least four administration officials, including David Addington, Harriet Myers and Alberto Gonzales, were involved in discussions about what to do with these incriminating videotapes. dday had an excellent diary on this earlier.

The turnabout also comes after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said he was going to subpoena former and current CIA officials and attorneys if they didn't agree to appear before the committee. The agreement by CIA apparently also includes agreement on the testimony of CIA general counsel John Rizzo, the official who is said to have ordered the destruction of the tapes, though CIA won't commit him to a specific date.

According to the AP story:

The committee's announcement is another sign of increasing tensions between Congress, the judiciary and the White House over the interrogation tapes. Congressional overseers are angry they were not fully informed of the tapes and their destruction, and want to know what else they have not been told. A federal judge has summoned Justice Department lawyers to his courtroom Friday to determine whether the destruction of the tapes violated a court order to preserve evidence about detainees.

Reyes also wants the CIA to make available CIA attorneys Steve Hermes, Robert Eatinger, Elizabeth Vogt and John McPherson to testify before the committee. Former CIA directors Porter Goss and George Tenet, former deputy director of operations James. L Pavitt, and former general counsel Scott Muller are also on his list.

Reyes also denounced the Justice Department for trying to interfere with Congressional investigation into the matter, when the CIA inspector general sent a letter to his committee last Friday, telling Congress to suspend its investigation, arguing (speciously) that such an investigation would interfere with the joint Justice Department/CIA internal (bullshit) investigation into the matter.

It would be folly to believe that victory here is total. It's not clear Reyes will get all the participants the Committee wants to agree to testify. Also, it would be hard to believe that the CIA will not turn over highly redacted "documents", much less all the relevant documents.

Still, the speed of this about-face speaks to the intense heat flaring around this scandal, with its tentacles so obviously extended up into the Oval Office itself. Today's story comes on the heels of the announcement by U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that he would order a hearing into whether the Bush administration violated a court order, breaking a great many laws thereby, by destroying in November 2005 the interrogation videos of suspected Al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Judge Kennedy, too, had to confront Justice Department warnings to back off. Vyan had a good diary on this aspect of the scandal yesterday.

The AP story ends with an amusing (to us) bit about Dana Perino's pique on the New York Times article that pointed to the White House.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called the Times story "pernicious and troubling." In a tense back-and-forth with reporters, Perino was adamant her opposition to one of the headlines on the story that said: "White House role was wider than it said"....

She said the headline made it appear that the White House had been misleading the public.

"The White House has not commented on anybody's involvement or knowledge, save for me telling everybody that the president had no recollection of being briefed on the existence or the destruction of the tapes before he was briefed by (CIA Director Michael) Hayden," Perino said. "After that, I did not comment on anybody's knowledge or involvement. So if somebody has information that contradicts the one thing that I've said, then this would be true — but it's not. And that is why I asked for a correction and The New York Times is going to correct it."

Update: Scott Shane at the New York Times has an article up now covering this new aspect of the tapes story (Tapes-gate?). He emphasizes that the appearance of "Jose A. Rodriguez, who as chief of the agency’s clandestine service ordered the tapes destroyed in 2005" is not a done deal. There might have to be "complex negotiations over legal immunity", due to that dubious DoJ/CIA internal review. Reading between the lines, it seems Bush/CIA are hoping this will cool things between the Administration and Congress, i.e., keep this out of the headlines.

The agreement marked at least a partial resolution of a standoff between the Bush administration and Congress....

In a conciliatory statement Wednesday night, Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said the department has “no desire to block any Congressional investigation” and has not advised the C.I.A. against cooperating with the committee.....

A C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said the agency’s director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, was eager to accommodate the committee as it performed its oversight role.....

An intelligence official, offering more details on condition of anonymity, said the top-secret documents would be made available either on Capitol Hill or at the agency, as soon as the logistics could be worked out, as early as Thursday afternoon.

In a final show of just how incapable, though, the administration is of talking straight on both torture, and now this latest cover-up of its crimes, Judge Mark Filip, Bush's nominee for deputy attorney general, apparently told his Congressional interviewers yesterday that "he might have counseled the C.I.A. not to destroy the tapes."

“It might be the better practice to keep those in any event, given the interest in the subject matter that was on the tapes,” Mr. Filip told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Nothing like principle to make one give a strong statement of right and wrong.

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