A while back, I was riled up because the Obama administration objected to the release of Bush documents that describe the videotaped interrogations of CIA detainees (specifically, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) at secret prisons in Thailand. Why is it important to have documents that describe the videotapes? Because the 92 videotapes themselves were destroyed.
Now it turns out, courtesy of an ACLU FOIA request, that in 2005, Porter Goss, the former director of the CIA, blessed the decision, after the fact, by one of his top aides (Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr.) to destroy dozens of the missing torture videotapes. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/... After Rodriguez offered to "take the heat" (apparently realizing that he'd screwed up), and Goss laughed and said that, actually, he (Goss), would have to take the heat. I guess I don't get the joke, or how this is in any way funny.
Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA's clandestine service, did not clear the destruction before it happened with Goss. Nor with the CIA's top lawyer at the time, John Rizzo. Nor with the White House's Harriet Miers, who had asked to be advised before any action was taken.
Apparently, Rodriguez told Goss that the tapes would make the CIA
look terrible; it would be devastating to us.
That's a different, if more disgustingly honest, rationale that the three arguments previously posited that the videotapes would: 1) endanger national security, 2) benefit al-Qaeda's recruitment efforts, and 3) reveal "sensitive operational information" about interrogations. These first two reasons were purely speculative, non-legal arguments. The third reason was not really a valid reason, but rather an unapologetic cover-up of what might expose illegality--something that in and of itself is a crime called "obstruction of justice."
But the real reason--the truth--is that it would make the CIA look bad. That fact speaks for itself. The destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice was about saving face, not about protecting national security or CIA operations and methods. The ACLU's Ben Wizner hit the nail on the head: Senior CIA officials are willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture.
The Justice Department has been criminally investigating the matter for more than two years. But I guess no prosecutions will ensue because that would entail "looking backwards."
More available at Government Accountability Project.