Rep. Jane Harman said in an interview with MSNBC on Friday that she told the CIA not to destroy videotapes of the interrogation of Al Qaeda terrorist suspects.
“My view then and my view now is it was a bad idea to consider destroying any tapes, and it was a very bad idea to do it,” said California Democrat Harman, who is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee on Intelligence and Terrorism Risk Assessment. Harman said she wrote a “classified” letter to the CIA telling them of her opinion when she learned of the existence of these videotapes in 2003.
Harman said that she is unsure if the tapes were truly destroyed in order to protect identities, as CIA director Mike Hayden asserted in a letter he wrote yesterday to his employees.
“He wasn’t the guy who made the call,” Harman said, adding that she finds it “quite incredible” that Porter Goss, the CIA director in 2005, alleges that he had no idea that the tapes were destroyed.
“This is a big deal,” Harman said. “If I were running the CIA, I would want to be told that some critical evidence was being destroyed.”
When asked if there should be an investigation into whether a cover-up took place, Harman said that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees should “demand all the facts.” Pressed further, she admitted that “it looks very bad.”
Harman has been barraged with criticism for not preventing the destruction of the tapes.
“What the hell was Jane Harman doing?” wrote prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan on Friday, in an entry entitled, “Pusillanimous Harman.” Sullivan called Harman’s actions “pathetic,” and wondered how she could have stayed silent: “A leading Democrat is told that the CIA is destroying evidence of its own war crimes and says and does nothing?”
Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com also criticized Harman for confining her objections to “private expressions of ‘concern’ to the CIA.”
“She took no steps — no press conferences, no investigations, no demands for a criminal referral, no court action — to impede this destruction-of-evidence plan in any way,” wrote Greenwald.
Harman said classification laws prevented her from taking any course of action.
“Too much is classified. But I signed an oath as a member of Congress, and an additional oath as a member of the Intelligence Committee, to abide by the law and I do,” Harman said. “This was a highly classified intelligence briefing. That was the deal. I could not talk to anyone and I didn’t.”