On NBC-TV's Today Show this morning, one of the CIA agents involved in the interrogation of terror suspects using "enhanced" techniques such as waterboarding that amount to torture indicated that approval of these practices was obtained from the highest levels of the White House each time these abuses took place. Presumably, similar approval was obtained for destruction of the tapes.
Destruction of the tapes may well have constituted obstruction of justice because several courts had previously ordered preservation of any evidence of torture taking place at the hands of the U.S. Government. But that illegality should not obscure the more serious violation of law taking place here with the President's authorization. These were the acts of torture themselves that are absolutely prohibited under both treaty obligations (the Convention Against Torture), and U.S. statutes that make torture a crime under U.S. law.
The White House and Department of Justice memoranda justifying the use of torture techniques for the interrogation of suspected terrorists by "redefining" what the U.S. government considered to meet the definition of torture did not, and could not, alter the fact that U.S. officials, possibly with the specific approval of the President, were engaging in conduct that our own laws deem serious crimes.
- Morton Sklar, Executive Director