But the Tapes Weren’t IN Washington

Jeff points to an LAT article that tries to portray the clandestine services officer at CIA as no longer bound by Porter Goss when the torture tapes were destroyed. The insinuation is that Jose Rodriguez destroyed the tapes, in contravention of Goss’ wishes, to protect the clandestine officers who tortured Abu Zubaydah.

Goss had been sharply critical of the clandestine service while in Congress and came to the agency promising sweeping changes. But within months of his arrival, a series of CIA veterans — including three top officers in the clandestine service — resigned in protest of Goss’ leadership.

By the time the tapes were destroyed, "they weren’t in the business of listening to him," said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who observed the friction first-hand.

Rodriguez had been Goss’ pick to lead the clandestine service. Pushing him aside after the tapes were destroyed would have meant another embarrassing departure from the agency’s senior spy ranks. [my emphasis]

But then read these passages and tell me what the logical implication of them is:

Shortly after he arrived as CIA director in 2004, Porter J. Goss met with the agency’s top spies and general counsel to discuss a range of issues, including what to do with videotapes showing harsh interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

"Getting rid of tapes in Washington," Goss said, according to an official involved in the discussions, "is an extremely bad idea."


Officials who worked with Rodriguez said that he was never ordered by Goss or any other official to keep the tapes, and that he had obtained advice from agency lawyers saying there was no legal requirement to preserve them.

Former officials said Goss and other CIA leaders were stunned when Rodriguez informed them in November 2005 that the tapes had been destroyed. But Goss did not reprimand or fire Rodriguez, the former officials said, largely because the director, who had previously been bruised by battles with the clandestine service, did not feel he could afford another fight. [my emphasis]

This article provides what purports to be a near-exact quote from Goss saying, "getting rid of the tapes in Washington is an extremely bad idea." It goes on to note that Goss never ordered Rodriguez to keep the tapes.

Of course, the tapes weren’t in Washington. As the NYT noted in an important article,

Until their destruction, the tapes were stored in a safe in the C.I.A. station in the country where the interrogations took place, current and former officials said. According to one former senior intelligence official, the tapes were never sent back to C.I.A. headquarters, despite what the official described as concern about keeping such highly classified material overseas. [my emphasis]

A detail this LAT article repeats in significant form.

The tapes, which were made in 2002, were kept for three years in overseas vaults where secret CIA detention facilities were located.

Given the fact that the tapes never came into this country (except in digital form), this advice to Rodriguez against destroying the tapes, then, seems targeted more toward where Rodriguez should have them destroyed than whether he ought to destroy them. Indeed, I rather take the exact quote as a direction to clean up the matter without letting the evidence enter the US.

This whole story reports on the reputed "tribalism" of the clandestine services, talking about clandestine officers sticking together at all costs. But in the entire article, it never once reports that Goss was a CIA clandestine officer for roughly eleven years. You think maybe that ought to invite reconsideration of whether and how Greg Miller was being spun by Goss’ folks?

57 replies
  1. Jeff says:

    I rather take the exact quote as a direction to clean up the matter without letting the evidence enter the US.

    That is a brilliant point (though it’s always possible it’s a typical Lit PhD overinterpretation). But I was also just wondering – on the basis of no particular evidence – whether it might have been the case that what happened in mid-2004 was that the tapes were moved out of the country. I know that the NYT and the LAT have both reported to the contrary, that the tapes were never in the country to begin with. But I still wonder about that detail.

  2. jimhicks3 says:

    This is the first time I’ve noticed the mention of the tapes being in digital form. It’s been glaring in its absence especially in this day and age and especially since the abugrahb sp? stuff was all digital.
    I’ll bet that there is this stuff on a hunnert computers.
    Jim Hicks

    • nolo says:

      actually, jim hicks – the assertion
      that numerous torture videos made it
      into the united states in digital form,
      as bit-streams, has been made, in writing,
      under oath, in at least two of the gitmo
      detainees’ habeas cases — and in perhaps
      dozens more (but i am only following two
      at the moment). . . it was specifically
      outlined in a december 13, 2007 filing
      [made by a covington & burling partner, no
      less — the firm representing the RNC in
      the five-million-missing-emails-o’-rove
      dispute before congress — how’s that for
      irony, or positional conflict!?] in the habeas
      for Abdah pleadingx. i’ll go add an image of
      that particular page to my images of the
      december 13 filing — images four, and
      new image five, at the bottom of this
      post, in a few minutes
      . . .

      but digital forms of all of these are
      our best hope of seeing them, i think.

      backed-up somewhere, and then that
      back-up probably got backed-up, per CIA
      standard operating procedures. . .

      in any event, check the link above in a few minutes.

      p e a c e

      • jimhicks3 says:

        thanks for that (jimhicks3) – I’ve been watching tv and even on c-span they limit their comments to “tapes” I guess in the hope that if you don’t say it (digital) no one will think of it which, unfortunately, is true for the main stream morons.

        • nolo says:

          no problem!

          my pleasure — the more we
          each inform like-minded others
          about what we run across — or
          deduce — the greater the chance
          that we unravel the whole of this
          dog-gone dumb-show. . .

          p e a c e

  3. TobyWollin says:

    Yep – my interpretation exactly – the “in Washington” is the operative phrase. If his point had been “getting rid of tapes”, then he never would have added the “in Washington” part. That is right up there with “I never had sex with that woman” – it’s parsing the language very carefully. He was sending a very specific message to not destroy the tapes in DC – he was not saying, “Don’t destroy those tapes.”

  4. mainsailset says:

    Perhaps the tapes were indeed brought to Washington, only to be flown out again to foreign soil to be destroyed.

  5. TheraP says:

    If we’re smart enough to pick up the hint… not to do it “in Washington,” you can bet your bottom dollar the spooks could pick that up!

  6. Jeff says:

    Here’s a bit of evidence that could be used to support the notion that CIA (and whoever else) might have had specific reason to think along the lines of ew’s suggestion here. From Isikoff’s latest in Newsweek. It has to do with the question of whether the destruction of the tapes would have qualified as a violation of the Federal Records Act, something both the national archivist and Waxman are apparently interested in:

    Mansfield did not explain why the CIA didn’t find the destroyed videotapes to be “records” as defined under the law. But agency officials could be relying on another provision of the records law that permits an agency, during wartime, to destroy records outside the continental United States that are judged to be “prejudicial to the interests of the United States.” The CIA has argued that one reason for destroying the tapes was that agency officials feared that if the videotapes were leaked they might compromise the identity of the CIA interrogators.

    emphasis mine, needless to say. There you have it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Bingo. See, we Lit PhDs aren’t so fluffy!?!?!?

      This legalism might explain how Rodriguez got two lawyers (if not four) to write an opinion saying there was no reason to destroy the tapes.

      • bmaz says:

        It is established that there are written opinions? Most excellent. Are we sure of that? Inquiring minds want to know the specifics of that….

      • Jeff says:

        Oh no, I never would have suggested fluffiness. Overinterpretation is a virtue of the hard-driving.

        But in any case, yes, I strongly suspect that one of the things the CIA/DO opinion Rodriguez got addressed the Records Act issue. That’s not necessarily to say that Goss himself was thinking and speaking along those lines. But certainly there has been way too much emphasis in the stories about the fact that the tapes were kept overseas for that to be irrelevant.

        Worth noting that John McPherson was/is an associate general counsel at CIA. No idea about Vogt.

  7. JohnForde says:

    Jeralyn at TalkLeft is conjecturing that a Rodriguez proffer (if there is one) would offer up Addington.

    Can’t the wags see? Why are they all only whispering about the F-I-R-E!

    Jeebus they are pulling the wool so tightly over our eyes my corneas are scratched.

    • nolo says:

      yep — and in my fantasy-football
      world of too-much-reindeer-milk,
      that would, in turn, deliver richard
      bruce cheney, rendered in orange.

      p e a c e

    • FrankProbst says:

      Jeralyn at TalkLeft is conjecturing that a Rodriguez proffer (if there is one) would offer up Addington.

      Can’t the wags see? Why are they all only whispering about the F-I-R-E!

      Jeebus they are pulling the wool so tightly over our eyes my corneas are scratched.

      You know, that could lead to some really interesting fireworks. Addington is an odd bird. I think one of the reasons that he doesn’t talk to the press is that he has no idea how to keep his mouth shut. He absolutely buried Scooter Libby. You just know he could bury Dick.

  8. bmaz says:

    I have no doubt that Goss, and a bunch of other higher ups, some of them as high as you can basically go, either said to destroy the tapes directly or, as you have inferred here, gave the old wink wink, nudge nudge. However, as to this specific sentence relied on here

    “Getting rid of tapes in Washington,” Goss said, according to an official involved in the discussions, “is an extremely bad idea.”

    it just strikes me that that is a lot of nuance to remain intact over an extended period of time and who knows how many links in a chain of custody of an oral statement. Is it not just as likely, if not more so, that the real intent of such a statement is that getting rid of the tapes is considered a bad idea in Washington? I hate to be creating defenses for these clucks, but I pondered this same thought last night when Jeff first brought attention to the LAT piece, and this was my conclusion; i.e. not enough certainty about the structural integrity of the quote, even assuming it is true, to draw the conclusion that this was THE operative statement.

    • MadDog says:


      The more I think about it, the more I see the different meanings in the Goss comment:

      Meaning 1 – Per EW:

      This article provides what purports to be a near-exact quote from Goss saying, “getting rid of the tapes in Washington is an extremely bad idea.”


      Given the fact that the tapes never came into this country (except in digital form), this advice to Rodriguez against destroying the tapes, then, seems targeted more toward where Rodriguez should have them destroyed than whether he ought to destroy them. Indeed, I rather take the exact quote as a direction to clean up the matter without letting the evidence enter the US.

      Meaning 2 – bmaz’s nuance: There is a history of disappearing stuff in Washington DC. Stuff like Rose Mary Woods and the 18 1/2 minute gap in the Watergate tapes. Stuff like the missing 5 10 million RNC emails.

      And when stuff disappears in Washington DC, sooner or later the political and often legal shite hits the proverbial fan. Too many folks know and eventually somebody talks.

      So with a bmaz nuance, one could view the Goss comment as his past experience being a harbinger of future bad news.

    • Hugh says:

      For me all of this is a little misdirected. Why was there ever a debate to destroy the tapes? Why did it go on for nearly 3 years and only ended when the tapes were destroyed?

      If there had ever been a question raised about destroying the tapes (by whom and why?), it should have been answered in the negative quickly and clearly. All of this supposed ongoing angst and debate in my opinion is nothing more than cover. Excuse the negatives but in this case if no decision was made to not destroy the tapes, then this omission constituted a tacit OK to destroy them at some point. Something would happen to them. Some career official high enough to order their destruction but not quite in the top echelon would do a little housecleaning. It would avoid awkward queries springing from terrorism court cases, cases of which there were likely to be others in the future. If the tapes were gone, how much easier to respond that the CIA had no knowledge of them. The odds were that the truth would never come out or if it did, it would only be years later. And it would have worked too except for some bad luck. Something was overlooked. A few “extra” copies turned up and the shit hit the fan. The various and changing stories that have come out since are symptomatic of what happens when you need to come up with a cover story fast. They don’t hold together. Because several people are involved, they have no time to coordinate, and they have different agendas, the inconsistencies show through. This is what is meant by the truth holds to itself. If many people report about the same event, there will be discrepancies but overall the stories they tell agree. When people lie, their stories conflict. One contradicts the other. This is what we are seeing now: Many stories, no truth.

      Finally, about the “destroying tapes in Washington is bad”, I would agree with those who say what this really means is if you are going to destroy the tapes, then make sure you do so before they ever get here.”

      • bmaz says:

        Oh, you will get no argument from me on any of that, save for the I just don’t think you can really tell, as i discussed above, about the true intent of the subject in you last sentence. My honest guess is that the translation was lost a little and, to paraphrase for simplicity, it is more likely to have originally conveyed “Washington thinks its a bad idea to destroy the tapes” than “Its a bad idea to destroy the tapes in Washington”. But I don’t know.

        As to the rest of your comment; right on. That is what I have been saying from day one. If there were no other cases and/or implications other than the cases of the subjects depicted on the tapes themselves (and there were a whole plethora of other concerns and cases), that alone makes the tapes material evidence that cannot legally or ethically be destroyed. The rest is just icing on the cake of illegality and ethical lapse. Any argument that it was even marginally ok to destroy these tapes is beyond absurd.

  9. radiofreewill says:

    Fuck Immunity for Rodriguez.

    This is Torture..and it’s in the open now. We are on the Global Stage, being watched by Everyone.

    Compel Rodriquez’ testimony through Service, and if he refuses, open an Impeachment Inquiry.

    This is a referendum on Torture for US – and now that it’s in the Open, none of US can ignore it – We cannot Compromise on this, America!

  10. cinnamonape says:

    EW~ I also thought it quite odd that the officials are very careful not to use the word “RECORDING” when they deal with these materials…but use the word TAPE or VIDEOTAPE. They are tip-toeing around the fact

    I simply can’t conceive that the CIA would have not made digital copies of these interrogations. 2002-3 and they are still making TAPE recordings? Tape which is so hard to edit and to digitally manipulate? And it’s hard to transmit any content with analog over the internet.

    I have to think that, since all these lawyers and CIA officials KNEW (they say) that the tapes contained NOTHING that could be used as evidence in trial that they must have viewed them, or a COPY of them. Otherwise how could they KNOW what was contained on them? How could they be so certain that the transcript of the interrogation was precisely what was on the tapes? How could they be certain that all the interrogations on the Tape matched the transcripts provided?

    They could NOT unless they had viewed the videos of the interrogation!

    I don’t think that all these folks hopped on a secret flight to Bangkok to watch the tapes…thus they must have viewed COPIES of the tapes (likely in digital format) in Washington. If they are lying about this then why should we believe that they are not being disingenuous about the contents of the recordings of the interrogations.

    “Getting rid of tapes in Washington,” Goss said, according to an official involved in the discussions, “is an extremely bad idea.”

    To my ears that’s saying that they need to be removed from Washington, and destroyed elsewhere.

    But it may be that other materials related to these tapes exist that could not be easily retrieved. Digital downloads, edited discs, etc. Given the trickery of these folks…using every opening to argue what they did was legal…they need to cornered by ascertaining precisely how they were able to make judgments about the materials without viewing them, whether additional copies (abridged or complete) exist of these recordings, whetherv they were ever brought into the US, whether they were then taken out, and why. Who knew about these and who ordered them to be transported.

    • bonjonno says:

      most of the hi end video cameras these days record digitally to tape. Not analog at all. So it starts out in digital form; just alot more of it fits on a tape than a card. And it’s likely transferred to a hard drive early on. The idea that the original tapes were never copied or transfrerred is absurd. Who is going to wade thru 70 hours of interrogation tapes to find the “special moment?”

  11. cinnamonape says:

    I thought that this was interesting in regards to Jose Rodriguez’s destruction of the RECORDINGS.


    (f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,

    (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or

    (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—

    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

    (g) If two or more persons conspire to violate any of the foregoing provisions of this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy.

    I would submit that Rodriguez and others were involved in the destruction of “information” (if not photographs) related to the National Defense (if not why is the information Classified?). Rodriguez is presumably arguing that he destroyed the materials through his negligence…no one told him not to…at least directly…though they had repeatedly warned him NOT TO. But no one ordered him TO DESTROY them.

    His only defense in this case is to actually admit who told him to destroy the recordings. It would also seem that there could be some issues of not promptly reporting the destruction to superiors.

    It seems to me Mr. Rodriguez needs to move quickly away from this “I wasn’t authorized to destroy it” argument.

  12. freepatriot says:

    let’s deal with this logically under the rule of law

    it is obvious that the CIA destroyed the EVIDENCE or torture

    in such cases, where EVIDENCE is KNOW TO HAVE BEEN DESTROYED, the party that destroys the EVIDENCE loses all ability to CHALLENGE any aspect of the EVIDENCE

    if a person who was tortured and that torture was videotaped and later destroyed, then that person should be allowed to offer UNDISPUTED TESTIMONY about the torture he was subject to

    porter goss and the rest of the CIA have no defense against such testimony

    since they DESTROYED the EVIDENCE that could have exonerated them of these charges, mr goss and the rest have no choice but to stipulate that everything the torture victim says

    if ya wanted to defend yourself, you shoulda saved the EVIDENCE

    it’s that simple

    porter goss has no tape to defend himself, so he has left himself WIDE OPEN to a charge of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

    • Hmmm says:

      porter goss has no tape to defend himself, so he has left himself WIDE OPEN to a charge of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY

      I’m not competent to agree or disagree with your statement about admissibility. But it’s interesting, because presuming it’s correct, we get something maybe more like: W, Dick, Addington, Goss, et al. have no tape to defend themselves, because .Rodriguez. has left THEM wide open to a charge of… well, dunno about ‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’, but according to my limited understanding, war crimes at a minimum.

  13. LS says:

    Also…perhaps the tapes were part of the evidence that was “supposed” to be given to the 9/11 commission, however, when that evidence was all “vetted” in DC (at the WH), prior to being given to the commission (they do it with everything else)…they decided to omit them, send them out of the country and destroy them…with a wink and a nod….

  14. radiofreewill says:

    Why isn’t Gonzo in Jail?

    He absolutely ‘knew’ about the Torture – he took Dictation from Addington to Advise the President on How to Legally Establish a Program of Systematic Torture in Secret.

    Gonzo absolutely ‘knew’ about the Tapes, and discussed Destroying them, in 2003.

    Gonzo became AG and absolutely ‘knew’ his Secret Torture Memo – Ghost Written for him by Addington through the Rent-a-Thug Lawyer, Bradbury – was disengenuously ‘covering’ Bush’s Torture captured on those Tapes.

    I guarantee that if the People saw the ‘highlight’ reel of those hundreds of hours of Tape – Zubaydah being slapped, starved, left in the cold, and Waterboarded – it would be IMPOSSIBLE not to think of the Nazis. That Highlight Reel would be Exhibit A in the Global Museum of Torture – the definitive example Human Depravity.

    And that’s if Zubaydah emerged from the Torture as Kirakou says he did – a regular guy, full of conversational skills.

    Other reports, however, have said Zubaydah was subjected to serial asphyxiation and resuscitation through repeated Waterboarding – effectively erasing his memory and reducing him to a shell of a man – and all this after Zubaydah had apparently given up almost all of the useful information he had under normal interrogation.

    It was after gleaning the info through normal interrogation that the Torture Regimen was put on Zubaydah.

    Anyone who saw those Tapes would have had No Doubt that they were evidence of War Crimes.

    The Obstruction was Intentional, Gonzo absolutley ‘knew’ all about it, and Bush benefitted by it.

  15. WilliamOckham says:

    I read the Goss quote a bit differently. I think he’s saying that getting rid of tapes is a bad idea politically. For civil servants, “Washington” is short hand for the political class. He’s saying that the act of destroying tapes will cause political issues, whether or not it is legal.

    • Peterr says:

      I tend to agree, WO.

      Of course, that’s not too far from saying to someone outside Washington “Who will rid me of these troublesome tapes . . . before they land on my desk and become my problem?”

    • bmaz says:

      WO and Peterr – that is exactly what I was trying to say above @ 15 with this sentence:

      Is it not just as likely, if not more so, that the real intent of such a statement is that getting rid of the tapes is considered a bad idea in Washington?

      If that quote is indeed the language used, or relatively close to it, one of these two explanations is likely correct; it just seems to me hard to tell which one. If I had to bet, I guess I would pick the alternative that both of you, and I, have mused about, but I just don’t really know. It would also be consistent with the reports that most of the “Washington” people involved are stated to have “advised” against destruction; although i do agree completely with EW that the undertone of one and all was undoubtedly “get rid of those damn tapes, I don’t want to ever hear about them again”.

    • emptywheel says:

      See, I might agree with you. Except that these weren’t destroyed for political reasons–they were destroyed for legal ones. Noe one gave a shit if they were destroyed until it became a legal issue…

    • cinnamonape says:

      I read the Goss quote a bit differently. I think he’s saying that getting rid of tapes is a bad idea politically. For civil servants, “Washington” is short hand for the political class. He’s saying that the act of destroying tapes will cause political issues, whether or not it is legal.

      But if THAT was the meaning, and if Mr. Rodriguez – his hand-selected replacement for the newly vacated Director of Operations position – was now a Washington official…then Rodriguez was DISOBEYING Goss. It’s nice spin…but Rodriguez should realize that this spin throws him under the bus.

      And it’s interesting to realize that Rodriguez – who was NOW the head of worldwide Covert Operations – took it upon himself to fly to Thailand, open that safe, and destroy the videotapes. Very interesting…but obvious bulldada.

      Do we really think that Goss was REALLY unaware of where his “missing #2″ was for even a couple of days? Rodriguez is #2 at the CIA. Not a field agent. Travel abroad for him would have to be a BIG DEAL, and a task like destroying the tapes would be better left to a surrogate. So why wasn’t the order simply given and the task done? Why did Rodriguez himself HAVE TO DO IT?

      Do we really accept that Rodriguez could simply walk away from the CIA offices without being contactable?

      That he could utilize CIA resources (flights, security would have to be at a high level, in-country transport) without the DCIA (Goss) knowing about it?

      Do we think that Rodriguez would NOT have told Goss that he was flying to Thailand to destroy the tapes?

      This whole “official” scenario smells so decayed and putrid that it’s unbelievable. The fact that it’s officially authorized, and that even the Field Agents(who may have participated in the interrogations and knew what was on the tapes) had trepidation about destroying this material becomes apparent.

  16. JohnLopresti says:

    Without relocating the source for an early description online now, there was a commentary describing a series of “rendition” aircharter flights for one of the individuals on the original tape, which history ended in abeyance at the prospect of having to delve again into the mutable tail nunmber log buffs’ plane watching records; but the gist was at least one of those prisoners was flown both to foreign sites as well as US onshore sites; the writer of that weblog opined that the one prisoner was interrogated in many sites. That might make for a variety of tapes, some made domestically, others elsewhere; or a tape could accompany the transported prisoner.

  17. Mary says:

    Is it not just as likely, if not more so, that the real intent of such a statement is that getting rid of the tapes is considered a bad idea in Washington?

    That’s actually how I read that as well.

    let’s deal with this logically under the rule of law
    The problem is, that isn’t really an option left with the DOJ that we have had for last 5 years. Or what we will have for the next 5, for that matter, because while some wounds heal, once Justice has had lawyers in DOJ use the swords given to them to hack off the arm holding the scales, that’s not the kind of thing that is responsive to a bandaid and a cookie.

    The first and most obvious question Congress should have been asking is why ALL interrogations of everyone at blacksites, supposedly all taken and held there bc they were the “worst of the worst that were worser than the worst of the worst Rumsfeld already had at GITMO” If you wanted intelligence, there’s no reason you wouldn’t record. It’s like telling NSA to wiretap, but not record and just hope folks remember what was said later. Kinda. Sorta. And that they people trying to do the remembering will have all the pieces of the puzzle already so they know exactly which things are important and which are not. The only reasons not to record go hand in hand: 1. You aren’t looking for intelligence, you’re manufacturing it; and 2. The manufacturing of of intelligence is like watching sausage being made.

    In any event, for the timeline and for the context, the Priest article in November of 2005 outlines several things that have still, today, received no examination, but which have to have made CIA operatives nervous.

    A. She details the torture homicide in November, 2002, of one detainee. http://www.washingtonpost.com/…..01644.html

    . In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death.

    How young was this detainee? Just how exactly was this “humane” and what intelligence purpose did it serve? Statutes do not run on murder and, despite how buried the reference, you have to wonder if and when someone might ask questions, especially “who was he” and that ties a bit to the next item.

    B. Priest’s story outlines far more than the 14 prisoners taken to GITMO. In particular, on the “high value” front, she mentions 30. There have been recent reports that we are still using black site torture gulags, http://www.reuters.com/article…..edType=RSS and there have been references to deaths and turning over prisoners to other “partners” (with the Clinton era Albanian returnees, Egypt obligingly executed two), etc. Did the CIA tapes show interrogations of someone no longer alive? No longer in physical or mental condition where they can be shown? Or of things said taht contradict other statements now being touted (in addition to the speculation about the Saudi royal family). For example, Saud Memon (who reports indicate the US held and, after the blacksites story in Nov 05, soon managed – speculation in Jan. 06 – to hand off to Pakistani officials, before he was later dumped, with no memory, in skeletal condition, with tuberculosis and menengitis, this spring. He probably had a lot of the real information about what happened to Daniel Pearl, why and who was responsible. OTOH, Gonzales has wanted to tout the story, tortured from KSM, that KSM was personally responsible for the killing of Pearl (and that story certainly gives an “out” to Omar Sheikh, who is seeking a new trial in Pakistan now and who has been reported to have been both a British and CIA intelligence asset at various times). No one has done any investigation into whether the CIA had Memon, what they learned, how they learned it, whether they were responsible for his condition when he was dumped at his families home, whether KSM or Omar Sheik or both was involved in the Pearl atrocity, etc. So what about all the “others” beyond the 14 sent to GITMO, and even, extending beyond the 30 or so “high value” targets Priest mentioned, what about the rest she also says ended up in CIA torture, which leads to the next point.

    C. Priest outlines the fact that, once gulags and torture rendition programs and GITMO shipments started, as evil things do – they tended to run amok quickly and replicated in the festering kind of growth patterns typical of things that never see the light of day. Priest initially tries to give “credit” that there may have been some kind of true terrorism reason to even detain these people, and to that end she also reveals that the CIA had “constructive” control over quite a few more people than its actual control, paying foreign countries to warehouse human bodies, sometimes with lives intact, for the US:

    A second tier — which these sources believe includes more than 70 detainees — is a group considered less important, with less direct involvement in terrorism and having limited intelligence value. These prisoners, some of whom were originally taken to black sites, are delivered to intelligence services in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and other countries, a process sometimes known as “rendition.” While the first-tier black sites are run by CIA officers, the jails in these countries are operated by the host nations, with CIA financial assistance and, sometimes, direction.

    But Priest and her sources know how often the CIA was getting things completely wrong in its efforts to quench an increasing taste for torture and its efforts to satisfy Bush and his architects of extra-judicial Executive torture. And so, at the end, she tacks on:

    The CIA program’s original scope was to hide and interrogate the two dozen or so al Qaeda leaders believed to be directly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, or who posed an imminent threat, or had knowledge of the larger al Qaeda network. But as the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials.
    The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. “They’ve got many, many more who don’t reach any threshold,” one intelligence official said.

    What if one of these in on the “harsh interrogations” tape? Or if someone like Arar’s foreign paid for torture in on a tape? El-Masri? Bashmilah?

  18. Mary says:

    Darn – hit the wrong button – guess that’s a hint that’s its xmas eve and I should be doing other things, but I won’t take it just yet.

    A few other random bits. It’s odd that when Priest describes waterboarding, with all her other references to detainees and the inevitable “him, he and his” pronouns for the unnamed detainees, when she describes waterboarding, she uses “his or her” – both genders – in the reference. That may mean nothing, or it might mean she heard rumors of women or a woman (maybe KSM’s wife who is still missing?) also being waterboarded and what if that is on the tapes?

    Also, the tapes my simply reveal what was really being done to these people and how it descontructed them mentally. Let’s just look at the “nicer” methods used at GITMO – the ones that Goldsmith’s and Comey’s pick for the 4th Circuit, Haynes, approved and solicited and revelled in:


    That’s a declaration by GITMO detainee Khatani (Qahtani)’s lawyer on the documented interrogation practices used on Qahtani. This is what happens when Rumsfeld got his Haynes on the GITMO detainees and it is not nearly as severe as what was authorized for CIA agents – go read. You can find out about short shackling and a little extra info on “long time standing”

    short shackling involves binding a detainee’s wrist to his ankle with metal orplastic handcuffs, and doubling the detainee over, either while lying on the ground or sitting in a chair. See id. Prolonged standing produces “‘excruciating pain’ as ankles double in size, skin becomes ‘tense and intensely painful,’ blisters erupt oozing ‘watery
    serum,’ heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”

    Hypothermia – well, Priest described how it was used for torture homicides by the CIA, but in the military when the heart rate plummeted, Qahatani was rushed for medical treatment and interrogated in the ambulance. As with the Higazy interrogations that yielded false confessions in NYC, the boys at DOJ and Rumsfeld’s crew enjoyed talking up the horrors they would make sure were visited on female members of Qahatani’s family and using female soldiers to “whore up” the interrogations. Couldn’t really be more proud of how DOJ and the military decided to use women there, could you?

    Qahatani also went through sleep deprivation that such that

    Mr. al Qahtani began hallucinating and hearing voices; he urinated on himself multiple times; and frequently broke down into tears.

    IIRC Fitzgerald’s Salah case included allegations of Salah being kept in confinement and subjected to sleep deprivation, but what the ND of Chicago sold to the Judge and she accepted, was the theory that the reason Salah was not returned to the prison population for days was not because he was being subjected to isolation and sleep deprivation (things the Israeli Sup Ct had considered, found were used, and decried) but instead just that Salah really liked hanging out with his questioners and asked to be able to spend the nights in the interrogation rooms. uh huh But this, coupled with getting the court to accept the use of not only coerced statements, but hooded testimony from men whose organizations admittedly used torture to secure statements – – those were the DOJ “wins” in the Salah case, not the ultimate disposition of that particular case. So now we have some dist ct case law that helps pave the way to using more and more torture in US courtrooms. yippee.

    Oh well, that went too far afield, but also take a look at what is happening now, in OZ, with David Hicks, based on his experiences at GITMO, he’s too afraid to leave jail. Or take a look at what happened when the US sent a bipolar chef into years of solitary confinement based on easily discredited lies about his presence as a “general” at a training camp and then think again about the torture of crazy guy Zubaydah and how much further they were allowed to go.

    Imagine what some of those men might have looked like, in general, waterboarding aside. I’m sure it gave a thrill to the DOJ loyal Bushies to have that kind of power over people, but you have to think that it might well be that simply the overall conditions, the threats of rape to family members used as an interrogation tactic, the feebleness, delusions, etc. being suffered by the interrogated and probably evidenct to observers, might be something beyond even the waterboarding shown that would revisist, for a few at least, the whole issue of “ticking time bomb torture” that extends for months and years.

    The message this Congress, this President, and even the touted “heroes” like Comey and Goldsmith who have gone out of their way to make sure that torturers bear no consequences (even when they torture to death and even when they torture the innocent) and torture is covered up and allowed to continue in darkness, and more shockingly this Sup Ct(in el-Masri’s case) has sent is that the message of fundamentalists is right – there is no recourse for abused Muslims is in the Western world’s law, not in a democracy, not in treaties, not in the courts, certainly not within a depraved DOJ.

    The law is suspended in a US style democracy on whim and for the benefit of “ours” and “us” and so that “they” can be tortured.

    • Curious says:

      Thank you Mary for posting all this information. I read the pdf document and am shamed my country… it’s simply too horrible for my words.

    • skdadl says:

      Mary, you break my heart. I’m grateful to you, but you do. I believe everything you’ve written there, but I wish it weren’t true.

      I don’t know whether this is the right place to do it, but I would like to thank EW and all the wonderful people who have taught me so much this year. I can’t contribute much, but I do follow along as a lover of genuine democracy, which I think transcends national borders, and I think you all are very brave and smart. Thank you, and peace to you tonight.

  19. mainsailset says:

    JL, if prisoners were moved from black site to black site, it would seem more probable to keep each guy’s tape with him as he was moved rather than do a geographical tape where you’d just get a compilation of the guy’s moved in and out of one cell. So were the tapes held by the captors as they moved?

    What if the tapes did indeed show faces of interrogators or observers, who were not CIA but indeed recognizable? After reading Mary’s comment above, it’s hard to imagine that there was any standard in play at all after awhile.

  20. sojourner says:

    First, I want to wish a marvelous Christmas (or whatever holiday you choose to observe) to anyone and everyone!

    Something I have been wondering… Aren’t US military bases an effective extension of our country? Meaning, if you are at Guantanamo, doesn’t US legal jurisdiction still apply? For some reason, I have had that stuck in my head from all the reading the last day or two.

    • CTuttle says:

      Historically, Yes! However, I believe this tortured OLC has issued, under Bybee, Yoo, Addington, etc…, weak legal opinions supporting their extra-territorial argument under Article II of the Prez’s authority…

      • sojourner says:

        Thanks! I thought I remembered that, but as you noted, it is probably of no consequence because of the OLC opinions. Somewhere in all this, though, I have to wonder if someone won’t decide “BS” on the OLC opinions. Just because they issued them doesn’t make them so (I can hope, can’t I?)

  21. jimhicks3 says:

    I don’t have much else to say except that this is on my new OLPC which took about 4 hrs to work out the home wifi and keyboard.
    Just that I hope this thread prompts the regs to talk about the digital forms that I bet i on whole bunch of computers.
    Goog Holidays to all

  22. melvynny says:

    Tapes probably still exist–I would bet on it. Also, we liberals bemoan how superficial and inaccurate the press has been, and then quote them as if it were gospel. There is a disconnect here.

  23. emptywheel says:


    I’ll have to look back and get the names of the two lawyers who wrote the operative opinions. My impression is they didn’t say, “it doesn’t matter that three courts have asked about thse tapes, burn them.”

    Rather, they said something like, “if the CIA has tapes (outside of the country) depicting events the President has approved, but which have been thoroughly transcribed, there is no reason they need to retain those tapes.”

    But yes, there is at least one opinion which Rodriguez relied upon. Those people are the second string of witnesses for Silvestre Reyes’ investigation.

  24. emptywheel says:


    The two people who wrote the operative opinion are Steve Hermes and Robert Eatinger. But the AP gives a list that appears to include four relatively anonymous opinion-writers.

    Reyes also wants the CIA to make available CIA attorneys Steve Hermes, Robert Eatinger, Elizabeth Vogt and John McPherson to testify before the committee. Former CIA directors Porter Goss and George Tenet, former deputy director of operations James L. Pavitt and former general counsel Scott Muller are also on the list.

    • bmaz says:

      Ah, I knew of Hermes and Eatinger (Ettinger?) – whatever his name is. I did not realize (guess I should have) there was a written opinion involved. Bad decisiion by Mssrs. Hermes and Eatinger. irrespective of what the actual four corners of the “opinion” contain. If is isn’t “Don’t even freaking think about thinking about destroying those tapes, they are material evidence, and you are toast if you do”, they got a sizable problem….. Morons; and sorry, I don’t have much sympathy for them or whatever pressure may have been placed on them. If you can’t make that call, you are not fit for the duty you have. I know the name Elizabeth Vogt, no clue why……

  25. [email protected] says:

    Porter Goss was to the CIA as “Brownie” was to the emergency management agency; one more incompetent goofball, in every sense of the word. There is nothing like appointing a political hack carrying instant alienation to one of the most critical jobs in government.

  26. Rayne says:

    This entire argument about “tape” destruction must hinge on the office of the President, or at least it looks that way to me.

    Was the ultimate decision based on legality, security, or on political optics?

    And was the decision made in such a way to create plausible deniability? You see, if the White House — specifically the President — viewed the torture, it was likely recorded at the receiving end, and became a presidential record. But if the POTUS viewed it, he cannot use executive privilege to protect the “tapes”. He can only prevent their subsequent review by others using executive privilege, but he incriminates himself personally if he does. And if did view them, and then make any kind of decision (either overt or by omission), he is a participant in an illegal act. The “tapes” are no longer protected by executive privilege at that point.

    But if he claims he cannot recall viewing them, maintains separation from the “tapes”, they cannot be protected by executive privilege. Leahy’s testing this gambit already with the Abramoff records — and like all the Abramoff records, they’ve probably been trying to purge whatever they can, including all related emails, in order to maintain this careful illusion that the president wasn’t involved and that he did not make any decisions. The only way they could be ABSOLUTELY certain there is no trail to the White House is to remove ALL the emails.

    The other exercise we’ve seen before to hide possible illegal activities was Cheney’s Energy Task Force documents, which he continues to hide in spite of the court’s decision that the documents should be produced. He’s used the argument that they are covered under executive privilege — which is really a weird excuse coming from the Fourth Branch that rejects the notion that it is part of the Executive Branch. Because the court eventually saw through this gambit, the Executive Branch had to take a different tack with the “tapes”; now Leahy’s seen through the next tack. What will be the next approach?

    Given these past attempts to hide documentation and the proximate location of the decision makers in these attempts, I suspect that Rodriguez can pin somebody higher than Goss, and the lawyers are merely the next feeble firewall between the decision makers (deciderers?) and the “tapes”, and all the semantics in-between are parry and thrusts to buy time.

    This situation certainly seems ripe for extortion…a third-party country with copies of Blackberry communications could do some real damage, yes?

  27. Jeff says:

    Since we have established that I am a bad reader, I feel licensed to ask this question. Is this statement from Robert Novak referring to something we already knew, maybe even blindingly obvious?

    Hoekstra agrees with Reyes that the Bush administration has made a big mistake refusing to let officials testify in the impending investigation.

    What officials has the Bush administration refused to let testify in the impending investigation?

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m also curious about this:

      Hayden, an active-duty four-star Air Force general, first antagonized Hoekstra by telling Reyes what the Democrats wanted to hear about the Valerie Plame-CIA leak case.

      Isn’t Novak talking about Hayden’s letter to Waxman, not Reyes? Or is there some communication to Reyes we don’t know about?

      As to the officials testifying–it may be no more than the fact that the HPSCI had to subpoena Rodriguez, which technically signals Rodriguez is testifying without the full approval of Bush.

      • Jeff says:

        Novak wrote here about Hayden meeting with both Waxman and Reyes the night before the March 16 House hearing with Plame and others. And in fact Elijah Cummings at the March 16 alluded to such a discussion, though he placed it on the 14th. And of course Hayden told them that Plame was undercover – and perhaps that she was covert, which, as far as I understand the CIA’s own categories is the same thing, and that’s what Hayden told Novak. Of course, the definition of a “covert agent” in the IIPA statute is a legislative definition distinct from the CIA’s own categories.

  28. cinnamonape says:

    Of course, the definition of a “covert agent” in the IIPA statute is a legislative definition distinct from the CIA’s own categories.

    I thought that the issue in the Libby trial was not any distinction as to what entailed a covert agent.

    In fact the IIPA defines such as any agent employed by an intelligence branch that serves overseas whose identity as an employee of that agency is not public. Covert agents are temporally protected by the law for a period of 5 years since their last assignment abroad. As Hayden pointed out Plame travelled abroad more than seven and perhaps more than 10 times AFTER her posting to the Counterproliferation Division in February 2002. That means she might have served abroad scores of times…but she was clearly COVERED UNDER THE LAW.

    There are several other categories of individuals protected under the law, including those who are non-citizen sources resident abroad. In fact, the law itself draws a pretty clear distinction between those who are protected including both those who “serve abroad” and those “stationed abroad”. The IAPA covers both categories. Plame did not have to be “stationed abroad” at all.

    But there is an exemption against prosecution (this has nada to do whether an agent is covert) if the individual who revealed the identity of the agent was unaware that the agent WAS INDEED COVERT. Although the documents that Libby, and others are known to have viewed do state that Plame was employed by the CIA within the CounterProliferation branch of the Covert Operations Division (and are marked as Top Secret and other Classification labels), they don’t state that she was still working abroad. THAT WAS THEIR “Out” under the IAPA. It may very well be possible that they knew of Plame’s activities abroad, but Libby’s assertion that he forgot all of his conversations regarding Plame (with Cheney and a half dozen others) before July 2003 and thus can’t (or won’t) reveal what he was told makes prosecution under that law nearly impossible.

    They can easily establish Plame was COVERT (although Goss blocked even THAT for a time~interesting since he was involved in the smears against Plame while a member of the House Intelligence Committee ). They can’t (or couldn’t) establish INTENT.

    However they may have been able to prosecute under the acts that prevent the revelation of material in classified documents by authorized employees (and those who have security clearances) to those unauthorized to possess such information. Don’t know why that approach wasn’t pursued?

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