Thursday, January 3, 2008

Temperature rises for the CIA

The U.S. Justice Department has formally opened an investigation into the CIA's destruction of tapes which may have documented the torture of prisoners by government interrogators, suggesting that the Bush administration is hanging the intelligence agency out to dry. Never mind that the Bush administration has championed waterboarding (the practice used by the CIA) while carefully arguing that it's not torture; rather than back the spook interrogators, according to Bush supporters cited by the Washington Post, "Officials have said that some White House and Justice Department lawyers advised the CIA not to destroy the tapes, which contained information of interest to the attorneys of detainees and to a congressionally chartered panel examining the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

Putting the Justice Department on the job may head off calls for an independent counsel who could, potentially, pursue an investigation further up the political food chain than the White House might like. That might allow the Bush administration to throw a few intelligence agents to the wolves before the political season occupies everybody's attention and the scandal over torture and destroyed tapes simply fades from the public consciousness.

But will the CIA play ball? That's an interesting question. A lot depends on whether the CIA agents under scrutiny are willing to live up to the example set by spy novels and take a bullet for the chief.

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