The Destruction of the Tapes

It says something about the fundamental unsoundness of the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program—legally, practically, and ethically—that it depended on extreme secrecy, and that breaches of that secrecy were understood to pose a major existential threat to the program itself and a serious legal threat to those charged with carrying it out.

Today's installment, the fourth of the five sections that make up Chapter 3, tracks the fate of the tapes through two periods of crisis for the Bush torture program: the first, in May and June of 2004, beginning with the completion of Helgerson's report and the release of the Abu Ghraib photos and continuing through the leak of the August 1, 2002 torture memo (one of the most tumultuous periods on torture program timeline but one through which the tapes nevertheless survived); and the second, in November 2005, when The Washington Post revealed the network of secret CIA black sites and The New York Times broke the story that gave the first public account of the inspector general's investigation and his conclusions.

The torture tapes would not survive this second spate of leaks. Descriptions of CIA cables released last month (PDF) in the ACLU's ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation revealed that the tapes were destroyed the same day The New York Times ranthe story on Helgerson's report, November 9, 2005.

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