Back in December 2007, Americans learned that then-head of the CIA's clandestine service Jose Rodriguez two years earlier ordered the destruction of at least two videotapes of detainee interrogations. Today, government lawyers revealed the number of tapes destroyed was much higher, totaling almost 100.
That shocking revelation prompts two questions. First is the issue of whether the videos might have revealed enhanced interrogation techniques constituting torture, actions which might have both jeopardized detainee prosecutions and led to legal action against CIA and Bush administration officials themselves. A second, less serious question goes out to conservative propagandists and Bush apologists: do you still believe Jose Rodriguez deserves a medal?
As ThinkProgress relayed this morning, the AP is now reporting that the effort to conceal the interrogations of Zacarias Moussaoui and another suspected Al Qaeda operative was far broader than originally thought. That news came in a March 2 letter to Judge Alvin Hellerstein as part of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU:
"The CIA can now identify the number of videotapes that were destroyed," said the letter by Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. "Ninety two videotapes were destroyed."
The letter also reports that "the CIA is now gathering more details for the lawsuit, including a list of the destroyed records, any secondary accounts that describe the destroyed contents, and the identities of those who may have viewed or possessed the recordings before they were destroyed."
Which is the last thing that likes of conservative commentator and failed Bush Labor nominee Linda Chavez wants to see happen.
In her Decemeber 21, 2007 column titled "Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You," Chavez argued that the 2005 decision by Rodriguez should be lauded. Chavez expressed her gratitude that Rodriguez destroyed evidence of "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding, acts which may have violated U.S. law and American treaty commitments:
In the next few months, his name will likely be dragged through the mud, and he will be vilified as a rogue official engaged in a massive cover-up. I think he deserves a medal...
Even though he is likely to become a scapegoat, what he did was right. He protected not just his men but all of us. I, for one, thank him.
Of course, Chavez is far from alone in wanting to reward those concealing the criminality of the Bush administration.
Former Fox News host and right-wing radio mouthpiece John Gibson similarly wanted to bestow honors on those who exact revenge on Bush's opponents. In November 2007, Gibson cheered the White House operation to out covert CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband Joe Wilson's July 2003 op-ed debunking President Bush's bogus claims about Iraq seeking uranium in Niger. Ending the classified career of CIA agent deeply involved in critical nuclear proliferation work and compromising her global network was essential, Gibson argued, because "this was about an anti-Bush cabal at the CIA" that needed to be "rooted out." Again, this right-wing water carrier declared, there ought to be a medal:
"I'm the guy who said a long, long time ago that whoever outed Valerie Plame should get a medal. And if it was Karl Rove, I'd pin it on him myself."
And so it goes. For the Republicans' amen corner, Jose Rodriguez, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and others behind Bush administration wrongdoing are national heroes. Conversely, the whistleblowers and journalists who exposed Bush's illegal domestic surveillance, the CIA network of secret black prisons, and torture techniques like waterboarding deserve prosecution.
For his part, then CIA director Michael Hayden claimed tapes' destruction was "done in line with the law." Beyond that, Hayden said little else about the revelations in December 2007, except to worry that "we may see misinterpretations of the facts in the days ahead."
For preventing that, Republicans believe, Jose Rodriguez deserved a medal.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)