Bush Lawyers Discussed C.I.A.Tapes
- White House lawyers were involved in discussions with the C.I.A. on
its interrogation videotapes: Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto
Gonzales and David Addington.
Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A.Tapes
By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE
December 19, 2007
WASHINGTON 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.
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 destruction of the tapes is being investigated by the Justice
Department, and the officials would not agree to be quoted by name
while that inquiry is under way.
Spokesmen for the White House, the vice president's office and the
C.I.A. declined to comment for this article, also citing the inquiry.
The new information came to light as a federal judge on Tuesday
ordered a hearing into whether the tapes' destruction violated an
order to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16
prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tapes documented harsh
interrogation methods used in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim
al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. custody.
The current and former officials also provided new details about the
role played in November 2005 by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief
of the agency's clandestine branch, who ultimately ordered the
destruction of the tapes.
The officials said that before he issued a secret cable directing that
the tapes be destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez received legal guidance from two
C.I.A. lawyers, Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger. The officials said
that those lawyers gave written guidance to Mr. Rodriguez that he had
the authority to destroy the tapes and that the destruction would
violate no laws.
The agency did not make either Mr. Hermes or Mr. Eatinger available
Current and former officials said the two lawyers informed the
C.I.A.'s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, about the legal advice they had
provided. But officials said Mr. Rodriguez did not inform either Mr.
Rizzo or Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, before he sent the cable
to destroy the tapes.
"There was an expectation on the part of those providing legal
guidance that additional bases would be touched," said one government
official with knowledge of the matter. "That didn't happen."
Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Mr. Rodriguez, insisted that his
client had done nothing wrong and suggested that Mr. Rodriguez had
been authorized to order the destruction of the tapes. "He had a green
light to destroy them," Mr. Bennett said.
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.
Top officials of the C.I.A's clandestine service had pressed
repeatedly beginning in 2003 for the tapes' destruction, out of
concern that they could leak and put operatives in both legal and
The only White House official previously reported to have taken part
in the discussions was Ms. Miers, who served as a deputy chief of
staff to President Bush until early 2005, when she took over as White
House counsel. While one official had said previously that Ms. Miers's
involvement began in 2003, other current and former officials said
they did not believe she joined the discussions until 2005.
Besides the Justice Department inquiry, the Congressional intelligence
committees have begun investigations into the destruction of the
tapes, and are looking into the role that officials at the White House
and Justice Department might have played in discussions about them.
The C.I.A. never provided the tapes to federal prosecutors or to the
Sept. 11 commission, and some lawmakers have suggested that their
destruction may have amounted to obstruction of justice.
Newsweek reported this week that John D. Negroponte, who was director
of national intelligence at the time the tapes were destroyed, sent a
memorandum in the summer of 2005 to Mr. Goss, the C.I.A. director,
advising him against destroying the tapes. Mr. Negroponte left the job
this year to become deputy secretary of state, and a spokesman for the
director of national intelligence declined to comment on the Newsweek
The court hearing in the Guantánamo case, set for Friday in Washington
by District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. over the government's
objections, will be the first public forum in which officials submit
to questioning about the tapes' destruction.
There is no publicly known connection between the 16 plaintiffs 14
Yemenis, an Algerian and a Pakistani and the C.I.A. videotapes. But
lawyers in several Guantánamo cases contend that the government may
have used information from the C.I.A. interrogations to identify their
clients as "unlawful combatants" and hold them at Guantánamo for as
long as six years.
"We hope to establish a procedure to review the government's handling
of evidence in our case," said David H. Remes, a lawyer representing
the 16 detainees.
Jonathan Hafetz, who represents a Qatari prisoner at Guantánamo and
filed a motion on Tuesday seeking a separate hearing, said the
videotapes could well be relevant.
"If the government is relying on the statement of a witness under
harsh interrogation, a videotape of the interrogation would be very
relevant," said Mr. Hafetz, of the Brennan Center for Justice at New
York University law school.
In addition to the Guantánamo court filings, the American Civil
Liberties Union has asked a federal judge to hold the C.I.A. in
contempt of court for destroying the tapes. The A.C.L.U. says the
destruction violated orders in a Freedom of Information Act case
brought by several advocacy groups seeking materials related to
detention and interrogation.
David Johnston contributed reporting.
U.N. rights envoy suspects CIA of Guantanamo torture
By Stephanie Nebehay
Thu Dec 13, 2007
GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations investigator said on Thursday he
strongly suspected the CIA of using torture on terrorism suspects at
Guantanamo Bay, suggesting many were not being prosecuted to keep the
abuse from emerging at trial.
On a visit to the U.S. detention centre in Cuba last week, Martin
Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while
countering terrorism, attended a pre-trial hearing of Salim Ahmed
Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver.
Scheinin said U.S. officials had told him that of the roughly 300
detainees currently held at Guantanamo, 80 were expected to face
military trials for suspected crimes. Another 80 inmates had been
cleared for release, he said.
No decision had been made to either prosecute or release the remaining
150, including many so-called "high value" detainees, he said. Some
have been held six years without trial.
"There is not enough evidence that could be presented, even to a
military commission chaired by a military judge. Partly there may not
be evidence and partly the risk of issues of torture being raised is
too high," Sheinin told a news briefing.
"Bringing them to court would bring to the court's attention the
method through which the evidence, including the confessions, were
obtained. So this is one further affirmation of the conclusion that
the CIA or others have been involved in methods of interrogation that
are incompatible with international law," he said.
U.S. President George W. Bush insists that the United States does not
engage in torture but has refused to disclose what interrogation
methods are used at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
In all, 800 people have been held at the Guantanamo prison since it
opened in January 2002, Scheinin said. The White House contends the
naval base is outside U.S. territory so constitutional protections do
Scheinin told the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday that his
Guantanamo visit had stoked his concerns about the fairness of trials
conducted there. The U.S. delegation rejected his remarks as partly
"misleading" and rehashing old criticisms.
Hamdan's hearing was held to determine whether he is an enemy
combatant who can be tried on war crimes charges in a U.S. military
tribunal. He has acknowledged working for bin Laden but denies being a
member of al Qaeda or taking part in attacks, including the 2001
attacks on New York and Washington.
Military prosecutors denied a request by his defense lawyers to call
senior al Qaeda suspects as witnesses to testify on Hamdan's role,
according to Scheinin.
"This is illustrative of the tightness of the regime in which the high
value detainees are held, which of course gives further suspicion to
the inference that they have in their possession information
concerning the interrogation techniques used upon them, which must not
come into daylight," he said.
"And therefore their prosecution even before the military commissions
is excluded for the time being," Scheinin added.
The Finnish law professor also voiced concern at the recent revelation
that the CIA had destroyed videotapes in 2005 that recorded al Qaeda
suspects undergoing waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique,
which he said amounted to torture.
"The destruction of video tapes on CIA interrogations is one more
argument that supports the contention that the CIA has been involved
and continues to be involved in the use of interrogation techniques
that violate the absolute prohibition against torture," he said.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To leave this list, send an email to: