First rule of a criminal conspiracy and coverup: Destroy the evidence.
Which is exactly what the Central Intelligence Agency did with videotapes showing torture of suspects. CIA Director Michael Hayden admitted Thursday the tapes were destroyed.
As evidence continues to mount that the Bush Administration not only sanctioned, but encouraged, torture of terrorism suspects in direct violation of the Geneva Convention accords, revelations that evidence of such torture were willfully destroyed will turn the issue into an election-season hot potato.
Will this be the smoking gun that finally brings down the Bush Administration and its long legacy of corruption and criminal conspiracy?
Captured on tape were interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, a close associate of Osama bin Laden, and a second high-level al-Qaeda member who was not identified, according to two intelligence officials. Zubaydah has been identified by U.S. officials familiar with the interrogations as one of three al-Qaeda suspects who were subjected to “waterboarding,” a technique that simulates drowning, while in CIA custody.
The tapes were made to document any confessions the two men might make and to serve as an internal check on how the interrogations were conducted, senior intelligence officials said.
All the tapes were destroyed in November 2005 on the order of Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the CIA’s director of clandestine operations, officials said. The destruction came after the Justice Department had told a federal judge in the case of al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui that the CIA did not possess videotapes of a specific set of interrogations sought by his attorneys. A CIA spokesman said yesterday that the request would not have covered the destroyed tapes.
The tapes also were not provided to the Sept. 11 commission, the independent panel that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which demanded a wide array of material and relied heavily on classified interrogation transcripts in piecing together its narrative of events.
The startling disclosures came on the same day that House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement on legislation that would prohibit the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics by the CIA and bring intelligence agencies in line with rules followed by the U.S. military.
The measure, which needs approval from the full House and Senate, would effectively set a government-wide standard for legal interrogations by explicitly outlawing the use of simulated drowning, forced nudity, hooding, military dogs and other harsh tactics against prisoners by any U.S. intelligence agency.
The proposed ban sets the stage for a potential election-season standoff between congressional Democrats and the Bush administration, which has fought vigorously on Capitol Hill and in the courts to preserve intelligence agencies’ ability to use aggressive interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.