Tortured Reasoning for Destroying Evidence of Torture

Steve Benen writes that "As it turns out, the reasoning behind the CIA's decision to record interrogations on video, stop recording interrogations on video, and destroy the interrogation videos was all exactly the same: officials were hoping to avoid a public-relations nightmare." They were unsuccessful, of course, since the media reported widely on the destruction of the tapes and a U.S. District Court judge is exploring "whether the U.S. had violated a court order to preserve evidence when the CIA destroyed videotaped interrogations of two terrorism suspects in 2005." And on January 2, 2008, it is being reported that "The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it had launched a criminal investigation into the CIA's destruction of videotapes depicting the harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects." Given the Bush administration's track record of secrecy and their seeming aversion to transparency, the incident is being treated as part of an ongoing pattern. As Jesse Stanchak of Slate notes, "First the CIA began taping interrogations because it was trying to avoid a scandal, because it looked like a wounded prisoner might die in custody. Then it stopped taping interrogations because it wanted to avoid a scandal when water-boarding was introduced. Then it destroyed the tapes because it was worried they'd be leaked to the press. But the truth came out anyway, and now the agency has to cope with the public relations nightmare it's been trying to avoid all along."