Coverup and Crime

Obviously, you can't miss Mark Mazzetti's story on the CIA's destruction of tapes that would have provided evidence of torture being carried out by American personnel. Spencer's commentary seems apt:

Of course, Hayden just inherited this whirlwind. His predecessors, George Tenet and Porter Goss, sowed it. And to a greater degree, it's the fault of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, John Yoo and John Rizzo, who created a blatantly illegal interrogation program for the CIA to implement. Those on the tapes torturing Abu Zubaydah and Detainee #2 were, loyally, doing what those men wanted. But Tenet must have known that what's on those tapes is evidence of criminal activity. That's a much more plausible explanation for why he stopped taping interrogations. And it's also probably why Rodriguez, with Goss' tacit or explicit consent, destroyed them. If Michael Mukasey is the same man of integrity he was before he became attorney general, he'd call that criminal conspiracy or deliberate obstruction of justice.

What will probably end up consuming the remainder of Bush's term is an inquiry into the cover-up. But it's always the crime -- torture, systematic and approved by the highest levels -- that demands focus. And it was the CIA's decision to distract whomever it could from knowing about the crime.

Michael Hayden as the current front-man is obviously going to wind up bearing a lot of the heat for the coverup, but it's Jose Rodriguez, CIA operations chief at the time, who was the actual actor here -- unless he's willing to fess up and implicate superiors in the conspiracy. And then there's the underlying crime, the culpability for which goes all the way up the chain.

Speaking of which, I saw a screening of Taxi to the Dark Side the other evening and had planned on holding off on blogging about it until the film was out in theaters, but I'll just observe that its dissection of the ways in which "command responsibility" implicates top officials in the crimes committed on the front lines of the torture trade is really brilliant. The film also makes the point that for all the flaws of the political press (the guys who cover campaigns, file dispatches from congress, follow the president around and take notes on what he says, etc.), quite a lot of excellent work has been done on these issues by reporters in the field and investigative correspondents based here in Washington.