There really wasn’t much doubt about what members of the 9/11 commission thought about the CIA’s failure to tell them about the videotapes of agents interrogating Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri.
But in today’s New York Times, the commission’s chairman, former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean (R), and its vice chairman, Lee Hamilton (D), make the bottom line clear. The op-ed runs under the title, “Stonewalled by the C.I.A.”
The commission never explicitly asked for videotapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees, they write, but “the commissionâs interest in any and all information related to Qaeda detainees involved in the 9/11 plot” was crystal clear. When they felt unsatisfied with the information the CIA had provided about the interrogations of Zubaydah and others, the commission even sought to interview the detainees directly. After extensive back and forth, the administration denied that request — but didn’t mention that videotapes of the interrogations existed.
One of the things the Justice Department inquiry of the tapes’ destruction will (or should) be looking at is whether the failure to produce the tapes to the 9/11 commission constitutes a crime. Kean and Hamilton, for their part, make a point of using the “O” word in their conclusion:
As a legal matter, it is not up to us to examine the C.I.A.âs failure to disclose the existence of these tapes. That is for others. What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.