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White House Heavily Involved in CIA Tape Destruction

Christopher Anders,
Director of Policy and Government Affairs, Democracy and Technology,
American Civil Liberties Union
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December 19, 2007

The CIA is on a roll lately with news that it destroyed taped “harsh” interrogations of detainees. The Justice Department recently warned a federal judge to back off of an inquiry as to whether the tapes’ destruction violated a court order. The department also asked congressional committees to back off of their independent investigations – as if Congress does not have a constitutionally mandated oversight role.

Just today we learned from the New York Times that four White House lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, took part in the discussions about whether or not the videotapes should be destroyed. We know that no one in the White House suggested the taped interrogations be preserved, and in fact, several officials claim that the White House went as far as providing “vigorous sentiment” that the tapes be destroyed.

This is just another case of Bush administration officials trying once again to hide their criminal activity. The White House cannot be trusted to investigate itself and at this point, only an independent prosecutor can fully investigate the matter without the Justice Department attempting to influence the process.

The argument that the tapes needed to be destroyed in order to protect the operatives just does not hold water. If that were the case then virtually all of the documents in the CIA’s possession would need to be destroyed.

Congress and the courts are right to investigate this matter. If it is found that criminal activity did take place, whether it be the destruction of the tapes or the interrogations the tapes depicted, those responsible must be held accountable – no matter who they are.

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