Alex Constantine - December 10, 2007
White House goes mum on CIA video case
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The White House said Monday it would not answer questions about the CIA's destroying interrogation tapes of terrorism suspects, citing ongoing investigations into what some have called a cover-up.
Spokesman Dana Perino said that US President George W. Bush's official lawyer had requested a no-comment policy while the US Justice Department and Central Intelligence Agency looked into the simmering controversy.
"Until that process works itself out, I'm going to adhere to their request," she told reporters. "I think that that's appropriate, and I'll adhere to it."
When a reporter noted that the White House has similarly stonewalled questions about other potentially embarrassing issues, and suggested that such a policy was politically expedient, Perino bristled.
"I can see why that cynicism that usually drifts from this room could come up in this regard. What I can tell you is that I try my best to get you as much information as I can, and in this regard I've been asked by our Counsel's office not to comment, and I'm not going to," she said.
But she repeated that Bush had no recollection of being told about the tapes or about their destruction in 2005 until briefed last week following media reports.
Some of Bush's Democratic critics and human rights groups have denounced the decision as an attempt to cover up interrogation practices widely seen as torture -- despite Washington's insistence that it does not torture.
The videotapes, made in 2002, reportedly showed harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who were among the first suspects interrogated by the CIA after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
CIA director Michael Hayden, who was not leading the agency when the tapes were destroyed, has said that doing so was necessary to avoid having the recordings leak to the public, revealing the identity of CIA questioners.