Monday, December 24, 2007

How specific do they have to be?

A further example of the US government's descent into lawlessness under Bush: the CIA withheld its tapes of Al Qaeda suspects being tortured from the 9/11 commission, even though the latter had asked for them. Their excuse? The commission just wasn't specific enough:

A C.I.A. spokesman said that the agency had been prepared to give the Sept. 11 commission the interrogation videotapes, but that commission staff members never specifically asked for interrogation videos.

The review by Mr. Zelikow does not assert that the commission specifically asked for videotapes, but it quotes from formal requests by the commission to the C.I.A. that sought “documents,” “reports” and “information” related to the interrogations.

Because obviously, such a wide-ranging request couldn't possibly include videotapes the CIA had already identified as relevant. Which raises the question: how specific do they have to be? Identify the torture victims by name? Kevin Drum is right. this is a transparent lie, unworthy of a ten-year old. And hopefully, it will not result in those responsible escaping prosecution. But beyond that, when government agencies start displaying this level of casual contempt for the bodies supposed to be overseeing them, something is terribly wrong. Democracy and accountability need to reassert themselves in the US. Fortunately, Americans will have a chance to start doing that next year.