I wanted to drop in a few quick words about Gina Haspel and her participation in the destruction of the CIA torture tapes.
During Haspel's Senate hearing Wednesday, she continually defended her actions and that of the CIA, as being lawful.
She said, “C.I.A. follows the law. We followed the law then. We follow the law today.”
And then she discussed the destruction of the CIA torture tapes by laughably claiming to only wanting to protect the identities of their agents.
Let's be honest though, the CIA has had the technology to easily pixelate those videos to protect their agents.
But what all the congresspeople failed to address in their questioning during the hearing was that federal judges had prohibited the Bush administration from discarding all evidence of detainee's abuses in 2005, months before those tapes were destroyed.
At the time of their ruling, the court was not aware that black sites, like the one she oversaw in Thailand, had been set up to carry out these illegal activities.
And the CIA knew this to be the case.
Federal courts had prohibited the Bush administration from discarding evidence of detainee torture and abuse months before the CIA destroyed videotapes that revealed some of its harshest interrogation tactics.
Normally, that would force the government to defend itself against obstruction allegations. But the CIA may have an out: its clandestine network of overseas prisons.
While judges focused on the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and tried to guarantee that any evidence of detainee abuse would be preserved, the CIA was performing its toughest questioning half a world away. And by the time President Bush publicly acknowledged the secret prison system, interrogation videos of two terrorism suspects had been destroyed.
During the hearing, Sen.Tom Cotton carefully walked Gina Haspel through her illegal destruction of torture recordings in an effort to rehabilitate her to be approved for her nomination to CIA Director.
Cotton asked, "Did any lawyer at any time in any organization of the federal government say that there was a legal prohibition to destroy those tapes?"
Haspel responded, "Senator, they did not. They were very consistent that there was no legal requirement to preserve the tapes because of the written record."
Cotton continued, "And it's your testimony that there is a written record that fully documents whatever may or may not have happened?"
Haspel: "Senator, yes, and there were two reviews done of the written record by the Office of General Counsel and the Office of the Inspector General."
Cotton: "In other words, the CIA has a record no different from the federal court system which keeps transcripts and allows sketch drawings, but does not allow video recordings in a federal court room, is that correct?"
Haspel: "That's correct, Senator."
Cotton: "You were the chief of staff to Mr. Rodriguez when this happened, correct?"
Let's talk about those lawyers, shall we?
When the CIA sent word in 2005 to destroy scores of videos showing waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, there was an unusual omission in the carefully worded memo: the names of two agency lawyers.
Once a CIA lawyer has weighed in on even a routine matter, officers rarely give an order without copying the lawyer in on the decision. It's standard procedure, a way for managers to cover themselves if a decision goes bad.
But when the CIA's top clandestine officer, Jose Rodriguez, sent a cable to the agency's secret prison in Thailand and told his station chief to destroy videotapes showing two terrorists being waterboarded, he left the lawyers off the memo.
Rodriguez deliberately, recklessly and unlawfully destroyed those tapes. And Haspel was a willing participant.
Even the Bush White House ordered the tapes to be saved.
John Rizzo became acting CIA general counsel. In early 2005, Rizzo received a similar order from the new White House counsel, Harriet Miers. The CIA was not to destroy the tapes without checking with the White House first.
Many members of the security apparatus wanted the tapes destroyed, not to protect faces but because so much pressure was building after Abu Ghraib. However, no such orders were given.
As her authority and influence within the agency grew, Haspel also joined Rodriguez in advocating forcefully and frequently for the destruction of the videotapes, several officials said. Rizzo wrote that they were “relentless” in lobbying him about the tapes during Rodriguez’s first months in his job as head of the Operations Directorate.
Rodriguez and Haspel kept pushing. At their urging, Rizzo went back to the White House again. This time, the president had a new chief lawyer, Harriet Miers. But Miers had the same view as Gonzales. Addington, the vice president’s lawyer, remained firmly opposed as well, officials said.Rizzo wrote in his book that he reported the bad news to Rodriguez and Haspel.
“They were crestfallen, because they were now on notice that the DNI, two successive White House counsels, and the vice president’s top lawyer had weighed in strongly against destroying the tapes,” Rizzo wrote. “To top it off, I confided to them that Porter Goss seemed distinctly unenthusiastic about the idea, too.”
Haspel kept trying to get confirmation to destroy the tapes, but never succeeded.
Rodriguez says he then took the initiative on his own to destroy the CIA torture tapes.
Read this report in its entirety.
It's well worth it.