On Thursday evening, when the media first reported that the CIA destroyed “torture tapes” documenting the harsh interrogation of al Qaeda leaders, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) said he had known about the destruction for a year:
And, we did not learn until much later, November 2006 — 2 months after the full committee was briefed on the program — that the tapes had in fact been destroyed in 2005.
But the very next day, Rockefeller issued a statement explaining that he had been misled by the CIA and was simply repeating what they had told him. To clarify, he said that he was not told of the destruction in 2006:
Last night, the CIA informed me that it believes that the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee was told of the decision to destroy the tapes in February 2003 but was not told of their actual destruction until a closed committee hearing held in November 2006.
The committee has located no record of either being informed of the 2003 CIA decision or being notified late last year of the tapes having being destroyed. A review of the November 2006 hearing transcript finds no mention of tapes being destroyed.
This morning on CBS’s Face the Nation, Rockefeller had an opportunity to set the record straight but failed. Instead, he offered contradictory explanations, stating that he learned about the destruction in 2006 but also that he first found out about it by reading the newspaper this week:
ROCKEFELLER: And I also don’t know why we didn’t find out about that until 2006.
SCHIEFFER: You found out about it when you read it in the newspaper?
ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, yeah.
Rockefeller was also asked about a Washington Post story today that claims bipartisan leaders of Congress were briefed on waterboarding and raised no objections. He said he couldn’t reveal whether he was briefed or not due to confidentiality rules, but said he was “really disturbed by what I was reading and what we grew to know.”
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), also appearing on the program, said there was “no justification” for either carrying out torture practices or destroying the tapes. “Burning tapes, destroying evidence, I don’t know how deep this goes,” Hagel said. “Could there be obstruction of justice? Yes. How far does this go up in the White House, who knew it? I don’t know.”