Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Tales of the tapes, part 4

The tortured souls who so eagerly anticipated "Fitzmas" must be thrilled by this news:
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey announced today that the Justice Department will open a criminal investigation of the CIA's destruction of videotapes that showed harsh interrogation tactics of suspected terrorists.
Question- does throwing this case into the arena of a special prosecutor special U.S. attorney nullify Henry Waxman's scheduled kangaroo court on the same issue? Back before Christmas this story was making the rounds:
THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.
That's Jose Rodriquez, pictured above, the former chief of the Clandestine Branch who supposedly canned the tapes and who's been subpoenaed to testify on 16th in front of Waxman. Sure seems this might throw a wrench in that plan. Another lump of coal in the Fitzmas stocking, perhaps? We await the opinions of the legal eagles.

In the meantime the left will generate no shortage of new conspiracy theories (and pad the old ones) but from a distance this whole thing doesn't look so complicated. Bush fought like a wild animal to keep secret the fact that 1) we had new methods of interrogating high value detainees, 2) they were occurring in secret places, and 3) we were also using new methods of listening to their phone calls. He was a dismal failure protecting all three but his passion reveals the most likely rationale for destroying the tapes--stopping leaks.

Had Bush authorized the CIA to turn over the tapes to the 9/11 Commission there was a distinct possibility that not only would individual agents be put in jeopardy but the methods of interrogation of the terrorist enemies would have leaked into the hands of the New York Times and the terrorist enemies. So they dummied up. After all, the Commission wasn't investigating interrogation methods or the interrogators, so transcripts would certainly suffice.

That hasn't stopped the two chief commissioners from objecting, and one can see why. But revelations are healthy. Perhaps now they'll explain why they left out mention of people like Abdul Yasin or the alleged connections between Abu Nidal and AQ.

Nevertheless, this investigation stands the chance of turning out to be more compelling than was the Plame affair. If there's any singing to be done, Mr. Rodriquez will surely sing about his boss Porter Goss, or since the event allegedly occurred in November 2005, then perhaps his deputy Admiral Calland. What will they do?

Tenet will also likely be dragged in along with his deputy John McGlaughlin, who left the agency soon after Goss's arrival and before the tape bonfire. As a teaser, here's what McGlaughlin told CNN recently:
And in fact, the plot was most well understood by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed about whom there were no tapes. There were no tapes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and they got everything that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to say, including responses to their questions.

The tapes were of two other individuals who had knowledge of the inner workings of al Qaeda, but not as clearly as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did of the 9/11 plot. So, from that point of view, I really think they got everything that they needed here supplied in full.
There's also the remote possibility they destroyed the tapes in response to what Zubaydah said rather than simply trying to protect the methods or agents, ie, he fingered some entity or country that if leaked would cause a big diplomatic mess.

We can't forget the dirty bomber, either. Back in 2005 as the administration was absorbing the Libby indictment they were also haggling over Jose Padilla, whom they decided not to try on the dirty bomb charges presumably because it would have allowed his lawyers to pursue legal discovery of those very tapes. Can anyone say mistrial? Padilla had no business walking on a technicality.

But it remains to be seen if this boiling cauldron will resonate with anyone outside the Beltway. As this Philly pundit put it, nobody deserves jail time for trying to get information out of those b*sterds.

No comments: