White House Lawyers Knew All About the Destroyed Torture Tapes

The next question, of course, is what these White House lawyers urged, or didn't urge, the CIA to do with the torture tapes.
When it comes to the CIA's destruction of video footage of U.S. torture of detainees, the White House, on the advice of counsel, has stopped commenting. About the only thing we've gotten from the Bush gang of late were vague comments from the president himself: "There's a preliminary inquiry going on and I think you'll find that a lot more data, facts will be coming out, that's good. It will be interesting to know what the true facts are."

It will be, indeed. Some of the "true facts" emerged late last week. Bush claimed, for example, that just recently learned about the existence of the torture tapes, but his White House -- and his White House counsel -- has been aware of them for years.

Today, the NYT moves the ball forward a little more, reporting that White House lawyers weren't just aware of the torture tapes, but discussed their handling in some detail.
At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.
The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.
Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.
Who would have guessed? Oh wait, that's right, everyone could have guessed.

The next question, of course, is what these White House lawyers urged, or didn't urge, the CIA to do with the torture tapes.

It's a little unclear, but there's some evidence the Bush gang urged the agency to destroy the tapes -- which would certainly help ratchet this scandal up a few notches.
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been "vigorous sentiment" among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.