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." Read more

Intelligence Oversight and Partisanship

David Ignatius picks up on a point I raised last week. We need to have better oversight of our intelligence activities.

Reading the newspapers over the past week, you would have to conclude that this oversight system is broken. It was intended to set clear limits for intelligence activities and then provide bipartisan political support for the operatives who do the dirty work. Instead, the process has allowed practices that are later viewed as abuses — and then, once the news leaks, it has encouraged a feeding frenzy of recrimination against the intelligence agencies.

And then he goes on to identify one of the biggest problems with our intelligence committees–partisanship.

The oversight process has broken down in a deeper way: The intelligence committees have become politicized. Members and staffers encourage political vendettas against intelligence officers they don’t like, as happened when Goss brought his congressional aides with him to the CIA. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has become a political football; so has negotiation over legal rules on intercepting foreign communications, one of the nation’s most sensitive activities. The bickering has turned the intelligence world into a nonstop political circus, to the point that foreign governments have become increasingly wary of sharing secrets. Read more

The Revolt of the Spooks

(Or Is it Civil War?)

There has been a lot of hand-wringing in this post, suggesting that the story revealing some Democratic members of the Gang of Four was a hit piece by Republicans (or, specifically, Porter Goss). That strikes me as an overly Manichean view of things, in which an article that makes Democrats look bad could only be a Republican hit piece. There’s another party in this equation–the Intelligence Community. The events of the last ten days make more sense, it seems to me, if you consider all of those events as a revolt on the part of the Intelligence Community.

Start with the release of the NIE. Pat Lang passes on the explanation that the NIE was declassified after "intelligence career seniors" threatened to leak the NIE to the press, legal consequences be damned.

The "jungle telegraph" in Washington is booming with news of the Iran NIE. I am told that the reason the conclusions of the NIE were released is that it was communicated to the White House that "intelligence career seniors were lined up to go to jail if necessary" if the document’s gist were not given to the public. Translation? Someone in that group would have gone to the media "on the record" to disclose its contents.

Dafna Linzer and Peter Baker provide the polite version–but still point to a senior intelligence officer who describes making the decision in the first person plural.

By last weekend, an intense discussion broke out about whether to keep it secret. "We knew it would leak, so honesty required that we get this out ahead, to prevent it from appearing to be cherry picking," said a top intelligence official. So McConnell reversed himself, and analysts scrambled over the weekend to draft a declassified version.

So somewhere in the ranks of the "career seniors" and the "top intelligence officials" some folks made a decision to confront Dick Cheney’s war-mongering directly. That’s a pretty serious escalation of the long-brewing conflict between Cheney and the Intelligence Community.

Then there’s the blockbuster by Mark Mazzetti (NYT’s intelligence reporter) revealing the destruction of the torture tapes. He sources it to:

current and former government officials

several officials

current and former government officials

former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue

But not Porter Goss (who would otherwise qualify as a "former government official"); Goss declined to comment through a spokesperson. And also not Michael Hayden, who wrote a letter to pre-empt Mazzetti’s story that provides a laughable party line for CIA officers to parrot. Read more

Congress and the Torture Tapes

First, let me start with some congratulations. For once, Jane Harman appears to have been on the right side of an issue, in this case warning the CIA (in writing) not to destroy the torture tapes. She’s now demanding that Michael Hayden declassify that letter so we can all see it.

This matter must be promptly and fully investigated and I call for my letter of February 2003, which was never responded to and has been in the CIA’s files ever since, to be declassified.

Congratulations Jane. Glad to have you on the side of light and goodness for the moment.

Harman’s then-counterpart in the Senate (Harman is no longer in HPSCI, which is why she didn’t learn of the tapes when HPSCI did), Jello Jay Rockefeller, appears to have followed the CIA’s script they gave him–until he stopped to think or someone did so for him. On Thursday, as this news was coming out, Jello Jay released the following statement.

While we were provided with very limited information about the existence of the tapes, we were not consulted on their usage nor the decision to destroy the tapes. And, we did not learn until much later, November 2006 — 2 months after the full committee was briefed on the program — that the tapes had in fact been destroyed in 2005.

And then, yesterday he revealed that that story was what the CIA had told him, not what he knew or believed to be true or, more importantly, what the record proved.

Last night, the CIA informed me that it believes that the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee was told of the decision to destroy the tapes in February 2003 but was not told of their actual destruction until a closed committee hearing held in November 2006.

The committee has located no record of either being informed of the 2003 CIA decision or being notified late last year of the tapes having being destroyed. A review of the November 2006 hearing transcript finds no mention of tapes being destroyed.

No wonder Jello Jay always touts the CIA party line–his first instinct is to read from the script they give him.

Meanwhile, Crazy Pete Hoekstra, current Ranking Member of HPSCI, sounds remarkably like Dick Durbin. Here’s Durbin: Read more

Torture and Taping Timeline

I’m just doing this because it’s like crack for Looseheadprop and she had a bad day yesterday. Lucky I had a lot of this lying around in a drawer somewhere.

Note, all the stuff on photographing detainees comes from this post, which is worth reading because I suspect it may become relevant to this discussion.

January 20, 2002: Bybee to Abu Gonzales memo specifying that common article 3 of the Geneva Convention does not apply to "an armed conflict between a nation-state and a transnational terrorist organization."

Late 2001 to early 2002: Ibn Sheikh al-Libi captured. After being tortured, al-Libi made up stories about Al Qaeda ties to Iraq.

January 2002: Supplemental Public Affairs Guidance on Detainees affirms Geneva Convention wrt media photographs.

March 2002: Abu Zubaydah taken into custody.

June 25, 2002: Moussaoui arraigned.

August 1, 2002: "Bybee Memo" (written by John Yoo) describes torture as that which is equivalent to :the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

September 11, 2002: Ramzi bin al-Shibh captured.

November 22, 2002: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri captured.

January 2003: Leonie Brinkema grants Moussaoui right to interview Ramzi Bin-al-Shibh by video.

February 2003: CIA claims to have informed Intell leadership of torture tapes’ destruction; though SSCI has no records.

March 2003: Public Affairs Guidance for Media Coverage of EPWs and Detainees allows photos (within guidelines) but prohibits photographs of custody operations or interviews.

September 10, 2003: Government refuses to let Moussaoui question Al Qaeda witnesses.

April 28, 2004: Hamdi and Padilla argued before SCOTUS. Paul Clement assures the Court that we don’t torture. 60 Minutes breaks Abu Ghraib story and proves he’s wrong.

March 2, 2004: Padilla interrogation. The tape of the interrogation would later disappear.

May 10 2004: Sy Hersh’s Abu Ghraib story.

June 3, 2004: Tenet resigns as DCI.

June 8, 2004: WaPo reports details of Bybee Memo.

June 17, 2004: Jack Goldsmith announces his resignation.

June 22, 2004: In an off-the-record briefing, Comey, Goldsmith, and Philbin renounce Bybee Memo.

June 24, 2004: Ted Olson announces his resignation, citing frustration that he did not learn of memos justifying legal decisions.

June 28, 2004: Hamdi decision.

September 22, 2004: Porter Goss becomes DCI.

November 2004: Steven Kappes resigns ; Jose Rodrigquez replaces him as Deputy Director of CIA for Operations. Rodriguez is reported to be the person who ordered the terror tapes’ destruction. Read more