There was a court order in place to protect this evidence, and now we know the White House was involved in the decision to destroy the tapes. [Note - The White House has released a statement on this issue - see Update below]
At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.
Left to Right: Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington.
The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.
Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.
It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been "vigorous sentiment" among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Some other officials assert that no one at the White House advocated destroying the tapes. Those officials acknowledged, however, that no White House lawyer gave a direct order to preserve the tapes or advised that destroying them would be illegal.
The corruption being revealed from inside the White House reaches to the Oval Office. Anyone who doesn't acknowledge that Bush and Cheney were involved in these discussions isn't being honest. These lawyers were smart enough to not say the words "Yes, destroy the tapes," but to instead give tacit approval by not suggesting that the tapes should not be destroyed.
Any way you slice it, it still amounts to approval for the destruction of evidence in contradiction to a standing, valid court order. They didn't choose to challenge the court order, they chose to ignore instead.
Our government is, at its highest levels, out of control.
Update: The White House has taken issue with the New York Times article quoted above, and has released a statement:
A subheadline on the Times article reads, "White House Role Was Wider Than It Said."
"The New York Times' inference that there is an effort to mislead in this matter is pernicious and troubling, and we are formally requesting that NYT correct the sub-headline of this story," a statement from the White House press secretary's office says.
The White House release said administration officials have generally declined to comment on the matter and denied making any misleading statements. It said the "no comment" policy would continue.
"We will instead focus our efforts on supporting the preliminary inquiry under way, where facts can be gathered without bias or influence and later disseminated in an appropriate fashion," it said.
One source told the Times that some officials expressed "vigorous sentiment" for destroying the tapes. Others asserted that no one at the White House supported the tapes' destruction.
However, those same sources said none of the lawyers specifically told anyone to preserve the tapes, the Times reported.
Related: CIA Destroyed Tapes Despite Court Orders - 12/12/07
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