CIA tapes might warrant independent inquiry
The Bush administration and Congress have begun investigations into the destruction of interrogation videotapes.
PRESIDENT Bush says he wants to "wait and see" what facts emerge from administration and congressional investigations before he comments on the destruction of videotapes documenting the CIA's interrogation of two suspected al-Qaida operatives. The slightest indication that those facts are not forthcoming should prompt appointment of an outside lawyer to conduct an independent investigation.
The Justice Department and the CIA have begun a joint inquiry, but those agencies are tainted by the role they played in the November 2005 destruction of the tapes, recorded in 2002. Justice Department attorneys reportedly advised against the destruction, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the CIA director, has said the decision was "made within CIA itself," reportedly with written approval by the agency's lawyers.
In addition, the New York Times reported, the proposal to destroy the tapes involved four high-level White House lawyers: Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and later attorney general until his humiliating resignation in August; David S. Addington, then counsel and now chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney; John B. Bellinger III, senior lawyer at the National Security Council until January 2005; and Harriet E. Miers, Gonzales' successor as White House counsel.
The assertion that the tapes were destroyed because they would have revealed the identity of CIA agents is absurd. Thousands of classified documents in the agency would reveal identities if made public but they are not destroyed. More likely the videos would have revealed interrogation tactics amounting to torture.
The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a hearing on Jan. 16. Invocation of the Fifth Amendment by witnesses -- beyond silence by the former official known to have ordered the tape destruction -- should trigger an independent investigation.
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