Shorter DiFi: The Torture Report Started in Response to Michael Hayden’s Lie

I gotta hand it to Dianne Feinstein: the closest she comes to calling Michael Hayden a shriveled impotent old man in response to his suggestions she’s a hysterical female is when (at 6 minutes) she says calling women emotional is “an old male fallback position.”

Far more interesting, though, is the description she offers for the genesis of the report. It arose in response to Hayden’s damage control after CIA’s destruction of the torture tapes became public.

In December [2007]–the 11th–Director Hayden appeared before our committee and said he would allow members and/or staff to review operational cables which he said were just as good.

[snip]

The genesis of the report was back with the videotape and back under then Chairman Rockefeller, who assigned staff, staff studied the operational cables, came back, reported to us, we took a look at that and said — both sides — we should move ahead and do a full study.

And while she doesn’t say it, she makes clear that Hayden lied in this damage control, when he said the “operational cables were just as good” as the torture tapes.

He can’t know that.

The backup to the CIA IG Report, after all, is that the even by the time CIA’s Office of General Counsel decided to destroy the tapes, they had been damaged.

[Redacted] for many of the tapes one 1/2 or 3/4 of the tape “there was nothing.” [Redacted] on some tapes it was apparent that the VCR had been turned off and then turned back on right away. [Redacted] on other tapes the video quality was poor and on others the tape had been reused (taped over) or not recorded at all. [Redacted] The label on some tapes read “interrogation session,” but when viewed there was just snow. [Redaction] did not make note of this in [redaction] report. [Redaction] estimated that “half a dozen” videotapes had been taped over or were “snowy.”

And at least one torture session, including waterboarding, was not captured on the tapes at all.

OIG compared the videotapes to logs and cables and identified a 21-hour period of time” which included two waterboard sessions” that was not captured on the videotapes.

That’s important because the IG also found that the waterboarding depicted in the videos that remained undamaged didn’t comply with the guidelines laid out by DOJ. In other words, there’s very good reason to believe that the tapes got destroyed, in part, because they showed CIA exceeding the legal limits laid out by DOJ.

To make things worse, Rockefeller had requested the torture tapes in the weeks before they got destroyed.

So I can imagine how Hayden’s bullshit line about the cables being just as good as the torture tapes withheld from Rockefeller might launch an investigation.

Michael Hayden has only himself to blame for this report.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
    • steve says:

      I find myself wondering if AG Mukasey’s name is also in the report. EW, didn’t you write something (maybe even still during the FDL days!) about how Mukasey’s answers about waterboarding changed between day 1 and day 2 of his confirmation hearings?

  1. bloopie2 says:

    Well done you, Dianne!

    And I’m surprised that Hayden is still “commenting” on this whole mess; neither he nor Clapper is very good at public speaking or debating. That’s a different skill set than is required for the job per se. The Establishment ought to realize that, and shut them down. OF course, then we wouldn’t get gems like this!

    • Peterr says:

      I’m not at all surprised that Hayden is still commenting on this. The closer this report gets to seeing the light of day, the more danger there is to him. The fact that he is getting increasingly public, increasingly whiny, and increasingly dismissive of criticism is a sure sign that the current public criticism and increasingly likely future criticism is really getting under his skin and making him very very very nervous.

  2. orionATL says:

    hayden’s response to the ssci about torture cables vs tapes is just a part of one of a number of concurrent conspiracies run by officials and lawyers of the secret agencies – cia, doj, fbi, nra, dod, dea, dhs, … intended to withhold information from the congress and from the courts.

    • orionATL says:

      unless documents have been, or are now being, destroyed,

      proving intent should be doable.

      but by whom?

      the doj is perhaps the most legally, professionally, and morally corrupt of all the government departments i mentioned above.

      clearly this set of (probably unrelated) conspiracies is special prosecutor territory.

  3. orionATL says:

    i am drastically revising my previous criticism of senator feinstein.

    that criticism was based on her obduracy in publicly refusing to take seriously the extraordinary misconduct of the nsa in the course of its electronic theft of private information.

    i wonder now if senator feinstein was not adhering to an old rule of politics in washington (and elsewhere) –

    if you have a very important goal you want to achieve, e.g., completion and release of the ssci rrport on cia’s torture cowboys,

    avoid making new enemies who might become allies in the meanwhile.

  4. Snoopdido says:

    While he says that he hasn’t read the Torture Report, I suspect that former CIA Director Hayden has been informed by some of his former IC colleagues that among the names to be named, his name will be one of the prominent ones associated with much duplicity, and likely outright lying.
    .
    One can hope, right?

  5. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    Wow, how has Difi gone from being a morally bankrupt pile of useless oversight with the fortitude to reject every criticism of said oversight while never showing a hint of emotion to a poor beleaguered women who is beset by that monster Hayden?

    Don’t get me wrong, as Jesselyn Radack so accurately summarizes him, “Hayden is a cunt”. https://twitter.com/JesselynRadack/status/453244221890113536

    But let’s not forget that it is Difi first and foremost who has shielded these people.

    Her Machiavellian manipulations at this late hour should in no way entitle her to a free pass, regardless of how many of her monstrous beasts she feeds to the meat grinder.

    She has protected and nurtured these beast for far too long to escape culpability.

    • Peterr says:

      Sounds to me like she’s finally gotten tired of being played by them for a fool.

      For that matter, it sounds to me like Andrea Mitchell is tired of Grumpy Old Formerly Powerful Men shaking their heads at women getting emotional. (see 5:30 mark). I’m not generally a fan of hers, but she bluntly kicked Hayden in the ass and called him out (investigation started by Jelly Jay; Saxby Chambliss voted to approve declassification, and they’re both men) and then basically invited DiFi to take a swing of her own.

      Well played by both.

  6. thelastnamechosen says:

    Doesn’t it make more sense to refer to the erasure of video files instead of erasure of videotapes.

    The idea that this information was not encrypted seems highly improbable.

    I can understand why the government likes the narrative of erased videotapes, but surely we don’t have to play along.

  7. jo6pac says:

    Please everyone lets not get to excited here about di-fi new found back bone. This will soon blow over and she’ll be right back to same game of F$$$ You on Main Street.

  8. What Constitution? says:

    DiFi understands that her own ass is on the line, both presently and as historical scapegoat, for the “torture debacle”. DiFi recognizes that the most likely way to preserve her on ass is to build the narrative that she “was trying to do her oversight job” but was victimized by lies emanating from those charged with reporting to her. And while she undoubtedly has always been aware that what was going on was outrageous and illegal, while she plausibly could defend it she has done so. But the “destroy the evidence” narrative became public, the roaches had to scurry and DiFi sees the endgame of trying to insulate her complicity by the shock, shock and surprise of learning that there has been gambling in Rick’s casino.

    DiFi is absolutely right to be offended by the duplicity of the Hayden crowd, and that’s because she took an oath requiring better conduct — so while her motives may be self-aggrandizing, the effect remains valuable and let’s hope it can lead to some meaningful accountability and more effective oversight in the future. But DiFi isn’t any paragon of anything.

    Oh, and while the Cheney/Rodriquez apologists crowd the microphones to explain how “urgent” their assessments were and how “it worked”, could one or two of the scriveners — I guess I mean “reporters” — maybe juxtapose those excuses against that little provision in the International Convention Against Torture which provides that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be erected to justify torture????

  9. orionATL says:

    fyeyes :

    http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/9/senate-cia-torture.html

    we discover thru senator wyden that senator feinstein has been working for four years to get facts such as these acknowledged by an official u.s. government source, in this case a u.s. senate committee she chaired.

    the facts associated with this report will have a major impact on u.s. national security policy, law, and diplomacy.

    credit where credit is due.

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