The destruction of video tapes of torture in interrogation by the CIA, which the CIA and others government kept secret until the New York Times published the news, was an act that obstructed criminal investigations and countervened the specific requests of members of Congress and the 9-11 Commission for information. The revelation immediately brought questions to the door of the White House. Spokesperson Dana Perino insisted that President George W. Bush “had no recollection” of being informed about the tapes or their destruction. But it quickly came out that Bush’s close aide and confidante, Harriet Miers, knew about the tapes well before their destruction and even communicated with the CIA regarding them.
Either George W. Bush is lying, or his close aide and confidante knew all about the torture tapes and handled communications with the CIA regarding them without ever speaking to the president about them. In the first case we have a president who is willing to lie to the American people about torture to protect himself. In the second case we have a president so incurious and uninvolved that, despite years of controversy regarding torture by the American government and despite having had Attorney Generals and White House Counsels who directly grappled with the issue by endorsing torture, he would never think to ask whether there was evidence of such torture. If he had ever asked that question, he would have known about the tapes, because Harriet Miers did. In this second case, we have a puppet president who doesn’t ask questions, who doesn’t know the important details of government, and whose staffers carry out information gathering and decision-making regarding issues of such central importance as American torture policy without bothering to so much as inform him.
I don’t know which is true, but in either case we have a crippled government and a White House complicit in the obstruction of justice. Getting a new, engaged president in a White House with a staff that understands the problem of torture is a task we citizens can’t complete soon enough.