It’s a privilege to be in a position where you can conspire to destroy evidence in order to preserve the ugly secrets of the torture state. A proud privilege. A privilege that Senator Pat Roberts, who used to be chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee back when Bush was adding phrases like “enhanced interrogation” to our national lexicon and Republicans controlled the Senate, proudly enjoyed:
At a closed briefing in 2003, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee raised no objection to a C.I.A. plan to destroy videotapes of brutal interrogations, according to secret documents released Monday.
According to a memorandum prepared after the Feb. 4, 2003, briefing by the C.I.A.’s director of Congressional affairs, Stanley M. Moskowitz, Scott Muller, then the agency’s general counsel, explained that the interrogations were reported in detailed agency cables and that officials intended to destroy the videotapes as soon as the agency’s inspector general completed a review of them.
“Senator Roberts listened carefully and gave his assent,” the C.I.A. memo says. (emphasis mine)
In November 2005, after nearly three years of internal debate, the agency destroyed 92 videotapes of interrogations of two people suspected of being terrorists, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
That action has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department since early 2008. A prosecutor, John H. Durham, is trying to determine whether it violated court orders to preserve evidence related to detention and interrogation or violated any laws.
The CIA memo leaves no doubt that Roberts understood exactly what he was assenting to the destruction of:
Last August, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. directed Mr. Durham to expand his inquiry to consider whether the interrogations themselves broke any law. Mr. Holder noted that in at least a few instances, interrogators went beyond methods authorized by the Justice Department, including threatening Mr. Nashiri with a pistol and a power drill.
Those incidents were also described in the 2003 briefing for Mr. Roberts; when they were described, “Senator Roberts winced,” according to the memo on the briefing.
Roberts’s defense, by the way, consists of arguing that he did not assent, he only failed to dissent. He seems to believe that there’s an important distinction to be made between affirmatively approving, and implicitly approving by being in a powerful oversight position and raising no objection:
But Mr. Roberts, through a spokesman, denied having approved the destruction of the videotapes, which is under criminal investigation, and defended his record in overseeing the interrogation program.
His assertions were backed by his former staff director on the Intelligence Committee, William D. Duhnke, who said that while the senator had not objected to the tapes’ destruction, he was “in receive mode” and was simply listening to get the facts about the interrogation program, which he was learning about for the first time.
It is entirely because people like Roberts chose to define their jobs this way, because people like Roberts abdicated the oversight responsibility vested in them and decided that all they would do is be in receive mode and simply listen, that the Bush-Cheney regime was able take our most hallowed American values and grind them so comprehensively into the dust.
(To expose the shallow sophistry of Duhnke’s argument, we only need to ask: “Okay, so what did Senator Roberts do about it after he had listened and got the facts? When did he digest the facts and get out of receive mode?”)
Turds like Pat Roberts contributed to the stains we now have on our national honor — the stain, for example, of having unrepentantly practiced torture as a matter of state policy — just as much as excrescences like John Yoo.
Too bad the only shame turds like Pat Roberts will be forced to face for their actions is the shame of being forced to argue publicly: “Come on, I wasn’t an active collaborator, I collaborated only by looking the other way!”
But such is the wisdom of Obama, and not too many people seem to care. (It’s not like it matters, after all. It’s just a bunch of stains on our national honor. Sure, they aren’t indelible but, hey, why bother to cleanse our national honor?)