The key question surrounding torture tape gate is not who authorized the destruction of the tapes in 2005. Nope. The real priority is who in the Bush Administration knowlingly lied to a Federal Judge in the spring of 2003.
The fun started on 7 May 2003 during a CIPA (i.e., Classified Information Procedures Act) hearing presided over by Judge Leonie Brinkema. She ordered the government to determine if interrogations of suspected terrorists were recorded. Two days later, 9 May 2003, Judge Leonie Brinkema asked, “whether the interrogations are being recorded in any format”? The Department of Justice, based on info from the CIA, said “NO”. (see p. 4 of letter to Federal Judges by U.S. attorneys Novak and Raskin).
There are at least two felonies here–obstruction of justice and lying to a federal law enforcement official. Someone who worked for John Ashcroft, the Attorney General at the time, certainly was in touch with the U.S. Attorneys who fielded this question from Judge Brinkema. And the Department of Justice asked the C.I.A. I will bet you dollars to donuts that the White House also was in the loop on this. At least Harriet Miers, Gonzo, and Addington. Who would they talk to at the CIA?
George Tenet, Director? Yes. CIA General Counsel? Certainly. The guy in charge of spies in the field–the DDO Jim Pavitt? Probably. This was not some obscure legal point. This was a high priority matter. Someone (or several someones, i.e. a conspiracy) at the CIA or the Department of Justice lied. And Federal Judges like Brinkema don’t like being lied to. Gives them a case of the cherry ass.
When the CIA affirms to the court in November of 2005 that there are no tapes, that may have been a true statement at the time. If the tapes were destroyed in June or July then it was a factual statement. The real crime starts in 2003. Funny, but then Deputy Director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, has been quiet as a church mouse of late. Ditto for Tenet and Pavitt. With reason. Someone lied.