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Fire At The EEOB, As WH Panics And Tries To Douse CIA Tape Destruction Heat

A fire broke out this morning in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (the EEOB), which sits adjacent to the WH and houses a number of key executive branch offices, including the OMB and a number of national security personnel.  CNN reports that the fire may have broken out in an electrical closet adjacent to VP Cheney’s ceremonial offices and the offices of David Addington.  (To our readers in the EEOB, please stay safe.  Reports on CNN at this point are that the fire has been contained and may be out, but firefighters are still checking.  UPDATE:  Fire officially out, per CNN.)

Coincidentally, I’m sure, Addington (as Cheney’s proxy and chief right hand man) is in the news — again — this morning as one of four WH lawyers who allegedly were involved in discussions about the destruction of those CIA interrogation tapes.   Via emptywheel:

And it is in that context that I’m most interested in the scoop-we-already-knew the story reports–the news that David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, John Bellinger, and Harriet Miers all participated in discussions of the torture tapes. After all, use of compartmentalization to gain legal authority for legally dubious acts has the all the hallmarks of David Addington’s work. So I think this story is as much about how these White House lawyers operated to ensure the destruction of the terror tapes as it is about who.

As to the implication that, if Gonzales and Addington were involved in the torture tapes, then so were Bush and Dick? I think this passage implies that Dick, at least, was part of the discussion.

One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some other officials assert that no one at the White House advocated destroying the tapes. Those officials acknowledged, however, that no White House lawyer gave a direct order to preserve the tapes or advised that destroying them would be illegal. [my emphasis]

There are relatively few people who would merit the "top White House officials." Add in the consideration that those people would have a national security role, and you’re talking people like Condi, Scooter, Stephen Hadley. And Dick Cheney. If not Bush himself. So at least some sources are out there saying someone in the White House was actively lobbying to destroy this evidence. (Incidentally, it might be worth mentioning that Alberto Gonzales implemented the email policy that resulted in millions of lost emails, so he has a history of advocating the destruction of evidence.)

CNN has a bit more, with an angle on Alberto Gonzales as well.   And the LATimes has more on the destruction of evidence in violation of a court order potential in all of this.  (I can’t help wondering if that "former senior intelligence official" is John McLaughlin and/or George Tenet or a proxy thereof, and if this is part of the continuing WHIG v. CIA/Cheney v. CIA rumble, but it’s a tangential question.)

After trying for months to pin all of this on the now-departed Harriet Miers via selective leaks to Isikoff and others (Marcy has, of course, been all over this.), the "WH" today shot back at the NYTimes report, demanding a retraction.   But the demand has nothing to do with whether or not the WH-connected attorneys were involved in the discussions, but merely about whether or not the WH has ever said anything publicly about it.  Let’s parse Dana Perino:

“Under direction from the White House General Counsel while the Department of Justice and the CIA Inspector General conduct a preliminary inquiry, we have not publicly commented on facts relating to this issue, except to note President Bush’s immediate reaction upon being briefed on the matter,” stated White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. “Furthermore, we have not described – neither to highlight, nor to minimize — the role or deliberations of White House officials in this matter.”  (emphasis mine)

So the question is still wide open as to how involved the WH may have been in pushing destruction of the tapes.  Good to know.  Similar story on the WH line on this from the WaPo hereJack Balkin nutshells it for everyone:

But all this is beside the point, which is not whether the White House has been misleading in its "public" comments over the past two weeks, but whether the White House has been complicit in crimes and other wrongdoing over the past several years. And on that question, what’s most notable about today’s Press Statement is that it does not deny the substance of the Times story.

The WH shot a poorly parsed, ham-handed non-denial denial out of the box first thing in response to substantive allegations, thus making the story an even bigger one by stepping into the fray.  This is all so remniscent of the Cheney press push-back strategery on Joe Wilson’s op-ed, isn’t it?  Take it away, Cathie Martin:

Enters talking points, and handwritten notes of talking points.

F When and how did you create this.

M Week of July 7, meeting with VP on the Hill, we had another staff meeting, so we were in on Capitol Hill. Talked to VP about press inquiries and reports related to Wilson matter. He dictated to me what he wanted me to say.

Published on board.

Not clear who authorized travel
Did not travel at my request
Apparently unpaid
Never saw document allegedly trying to verify
He was convinced Niger could not have provided uranium to Iraq but in fact they did in 1980s 200 tons under IAEA seal
No written report
VP unaware of trip, conclusions, until Spring 03
As late as October considered judgment was that SH [Saddam Hussein] had indeed undertaken vigorous effort to acquire uranium from Africa–according to NIE.
There’s a question mark in the margin, F asks, did he dictate question mark.

M I didn’t know if I could use that (#8) because it was classified.

That’s former Veep Press Secretary Cathie Martin’s testimony regarding meeting with Dick Cheney at his offices on the Hill, to take pushback dictation against the Wilson op-ed directly from Dick Cheney on what the WH response should be.  Got to ask myself whether there has been similar pushback dictation from Dick Cheney on the CIA tape destruction story — especially with David Addington’s name continuing to pop right up there in the mix of players.  (Martin is now a press person at the Bush WH.  Cozy.)

Addington has been Cheney’s right hand and enforcer on torture policy all along, and you cannot divorce one from the other in terms of action in search of policy initiative and priority.

I remember that Martin testimony vividly, because it also included a lot of inside information on how the WH/Veep offices planted stories with the press (including the fact that Meet the Press was a good venue for them), and then vouched their own stories with surrogates calling to plant follow-up tips to reporters with whom the stories had already been seeded.  And I distinctly recall the shock on the faces of a number of those reporters with whom I was sitting in the courtroom — and wondering if they were all searching back through their minds to see if they were among the duped.

Emptywheel is getting that same WH panicky ham-handed over-response vibe as well.  And I’m getting the distinct gut feeling that another shoe is out there waiting to be dropped.  Much more on this as I get it…

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com