Getting warmer, aren't we? Money quote:
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.
"Vigorous sentiment." Can anyone seriously doubt we are talking about David Addington here, one of the chief architects of the torture program, a believer that the president is above the law with respect to his commander-in-chief powers, and Cheney's eyes and ears in the federal bureaucracy? As Marty Lederman notes, the line from the White House so far has been that many advised against the destruction of the tapes; but somehow this advice wasn't taken. And when the tapes were destroyed, no one seemed to give a damn. Funny that, isn't it?
And Abu Ghraib is the give-away. Videos and photographs bring home the reality of the torture regime much more vividly than mere words - as well as being a far graver p.r. wound in the Muslim world. This time, there could not even be a farcical attempt to blame elaborate text-book torture and abuse techniques on free-lance reservists who were easily framed. All this torture - hundreds and hundreds of hours of Gestapo-style hypothermia, stress positions, waterboarding, sleep deprivation - was meticulously approved from the very top. They knew they were risking illegality and obstruction of justice in this act of institutional vandalism. But if they didn't destroy the tapes, they were risking direct evidence of war crimes. Not a hard call, is it? And you would have to have had blinders and ear-muffs on for the past six years to believe Bush didn't know about it.