Today's Blogs

Intel, Lies, and Videotape

Bloggers respond to news that the CIA destroyed video tapes depicting interrogations of terrorists. And Israel is hoping to convince the Pentagon that the National Intelligence Estimate is deeply flawed.

Intel, lies, and videotape: The New York Times reported Friday that in 2005 the CIA destroyed two tapes showing the interrogation Abu Zubaydah, the first terror detainee after 9/11, and one other terror suspect. The tapes were apparently destroyed to protect the CIA agents on them from “legal risks.” Democrats are calling for an investigation. Bloggers have lots of questions, chief among them: Why wasn’t the 9/11 commission made aware of the tapes?

“This was a deliberate act to destroy evidence of war-crimes and to protect war criminals from facing the rule of law,” says Andrew Sullivan, calling the United States a banana republic. “The Congress needs to find out who authorized the destruction of those tapes. I should add that this is not the first time that videotapes of alleged torture sessions have been ‘lost.’ The same happened in the case of Jose Padilla.”

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway writes: “There’s really no reason to believe that the CIA destroyed the tapes for anything other than their stated reason, combined with perhaps some good old fashioned bureaucratic ass covering and an arrogant sense that they could get away with it because they’re the CIA. That’s bad enough, of course, and somebody should almost certainly go to jail. But we can probably stop short of grand conspiracy theories.”

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters thinks “the timing stinks. The tapes sat unmolested in a vault for at least two years without the CIA worrying about the potential damage from a leak. The Inspector General had long since concluded that the interrogations did not break the law. However, as soon as Congress began debating the specific interrogation technique that the tapes depicted, someone decided that they represented a danger to the agents. It looks a lot more like destroying evidence than tightening security.”

“Of special relevance is that, according to Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair last summer, Zubaydah was tortured by psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen,” writes stephen soldz at lefty Daily Kos. Soldz adds that though Mitchell and Jessen are not members of the American Psychological Association, that group might have been inclined to condemn severe interrogation techniques more if these tapes had been made public. “After all, it was the pictures from Abu Ghraib that broke through all the legal gobbledygook and seared the reality of American torture into consciousness around the world. With the destruction of these CIA tapes, has the APA, as well as the CIA, dodged another bullet? For the moment, anyway?”

Here are two of six points made by emptywheel at Firedoglake: “The timing of this leak was clearly intended to have one effect: to make it impossible for Bush to veto the bill prohibiting the CIA from torturing. Now let’s see if it accomplishes that goal. Another note on timing? Paul Clement’s statements at SCOTUS yesterday were not proved wrong within 24 hours, as they were when he claimed, during the Padilla hearing, that we don’t torture. But this works about as well, I think, to make sure the Justices think long and hard about our gulag in Cuba.”

Neocon News ain’t buying it: “If we were cutting off chunks of flesh, or removing eyeballs as the Al Qaeda torture manual recommends, then I would agree that we have lost our ‘moral superiority’ as it were. But what those who would decry America’s national security tactics are quick to forget is that those who we are fighting against target civilians and children for death purposefully. That doesn’t excuse torture, but it does set the bar for moral equivalency pretty high.”

Curt at milblog Flopping Aces thinks that critics shouldn’t pick and choose what intelligence they like: “They take the [intelligence community’s] word as gospel when it jives with their worldview, ie the NIE, but when it delves into areas they don’t agree with, well then the IC is full of it.  Funny how that works huh?”

Liberal Spencer Ackerman at TPM Muckraker concludes: “[T]he bottom line here is that at least some Congressional leaders knew something about the tapes and something about their destruction, and didn’t say anything about either. Harman’s silence is especially stunning: she co-chaired a joint Congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks in 2002 that didn’t receive that very pertinent information.”

Read more about the destroyed CIA tapes.

Not so fast, says Israel: U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen is traveling to Israel to meet with General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who will attempt to convince him that the NIE on Iran’s absent nuclear program is false. The Israelis have long been thought to posses the most accurate information on Iran’s weapons capability, so bloggers naturally wonder how this intel-share might affect U.S. policy.

“Considering that Israel is in the same neighborhood as Iran, it’s not far fetched to imagine their intelligence on Iran to be more accurate than ours,” argues  Hot Joints’ Chris Jones. “Israel’s intelligence service is among the best in the world, so it’s definitely in our best interest to hear them out.”

Mcq at libertarian The QandO Blog surmises: “We have no doubt” is not a statement of equivocation. The current NIE is nothing but equivocation. … [W]e’d be foolish, especially given the intel from a nation who’s very survival depends on getting it right, to suddenly conclude that there is no nuclear threat from Iran. Something’s still going on there and until we get a better handle on it … I think we need to continue to pressure Iran through sanctions and diplomatic means to open up their nuclear program to complete inspection.”

Meanwhile, Ha’aretz correspondent and Slate contributor Shmuel Rosner at Rosner’s Domain says the NIE has had a devastating impact within the Israeli government: “If Olmert wanted to play the Iranian card and hazard the chance that the U.S. would destroy the nuclear installations in order to enlist support for another withdrawal in the West Bank - ‘Itamar in return for Natanz’ - he has lost this card.”

Read more about the NIE and Israel.