KENNEDY ON CIA INTERROGATION TAPES
The torture debate took another deeply troubling turn yesterday. The nation learned the CIA had destroyed videotapes of its employees in the act of using torture or other harsh interrogation techniques on detainees.
Those tapes were not shown to Congress. They were not shown to any court. They were not shown to the bipartisan 9-11 Commission. Instead, they were destroyed.
What would cause the CIA to take this action? The answer is obvious -- cover up. The agency was desperate to cover up damning evidence of their practices. In a letter to agency employees yesterday, CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed that the tapes were a security risk because they might someday "leak" and thereby identify the CIA employees who engaged in these practices.
But that excuse won't wash. I am second to no one in wanting to protect the brave men and women of the CIA. But how is it possible that the Director of the CIA has so little faith in his own agency?
Does the Director believe the CIA's buildings are not secure?
Would it be beyond the agency's technical expertise to preserve the tapes while hiding the identity of its employees?
Does the Director believe that the CIA's employees cannot be trusted not to leak materials that might harm the agency?
Or does he know that the interrogation techniques are so abhorrent that they could not remain unknown much longer?
It is particularly difficult to take the Director's explanation at face value when the news that these CIA tapes were destroyed came the very same week that we learned that as many as ten million White House emails have not been preserved, despite a law that requires their retention. At the same time, the President continued to insist that we grant immunity to the phone companies for their role in the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
The pattern is unmistakable. The past six years, the Bush administration has run roughshod over our ideals and the rule of law. For four of those six years, the Republican Congress did little to hold the administration accountable. Now, when the new Democratic Congress is demanding answers, the Administration is feverishly covering up its tracks. We haven't seen anything like this since the eighteen and a half minute gap in the tapes of President Richard Nixon.
These efforts are wrong, and they must be stopped. I and other concerned Senators will today call upon Attorney General Mukasey to immediately begin an investigation into whether the CIA's handling and destruction of these tapes violated the law.
We also must redouble our efforts to make sure that future interrogations by the CIA conform to our laws and values. No part of our government should engage in practices that are so horrific that we cannot bear to see them on tape. To that end, I introduced legislation to require that all government agencies, including the CIA, follow the standards of the Army Field Manual.
Language that would take that important step was recently included in the conference report on the Intelligence Authorization bill, and we must act to adopt it as soon as possible.
As founder John Adams said, our nation is "a nation of laws, not men." That basic principle is at risk today from an administration that is engaging in a cover-up -- systematically destroying records, commuting sentences, and stonewalling Congressional investigations. The CIA's role in this cover-up is only the latest reminder that Congress must fight harder to prevent this administration from making a mockery of the rule of law, and to preserve the right of the American people to know what the government has been doing in their name.