December 7th, 2007
04:11 PM ET
15 years ago

Candidates take aim at CIA, Bush

McCain discussed the CIA tapes controversy at a campaign stop in New Hampshire Friday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Presidential candidates took aim at the CIA and the Bush administration over the destruction of video recordings that documented the interrogation of Al Qaeda suspects Friday, and included the use of the controversial “waterboarding” technique.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton told CNN that the revelation “raises some very serious concerns,” since it may have been done despite a legal request for such material from the 9/11 commission.

“So we're going to be looking into this vigorously to determine exactly what happened, what were the reasons for the destruction of the tapes what was the CIA trying to protect,” said the New York senator. “We've got to really clean house here and get to the bottom of what has been going on in the last years.”

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has long been critical of the administration’s stance on harsh interrogation techniques that some have defined as torture, criticized the CIA but stopped short of accusing anyone at the agency of criminal action.

"I don't think they should have destroyed those tapes and it will harm the credibility of the CIA in my view, and I wish they had listened to members of Congress who said they should not do so," McCain told reporters after a New Hampshire campaign event, but "as far as I know, they didn't break any laws.

“But they should be concerned by their credibility with the American people. And to take actions such as that without a convincing argument for doing so, it erodes American confidence in the institution,” he added.

New Mexico Sen. Bill Richardson directed most of his criticism at the White House.

"The Bush-Cheney Administration seems to be on a mission to destroy our credibility in the world," Richardson said in a statement. "That these tapes existed is reprehensible. That they were destroyed is outrageous…. No one is above the law."

Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration’s actions in the matter, in allegedly withholding the recordings, “appear to violate federal law.”

"This is another troubling example of the Bush administration's lawless behavior that only serves to undermine our credibility at home and abroad,” he said in a statement. “Obstructing justice and making false statements to an official investigation cannot be condoned by our government.”

Biden called for the CIA's inspector general to launch an official investigation.

Meanwhile, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said the actions raise "deeply troubling questions about whether their destruction was intended to prevent the American people from learning the truth about the harsh interrogation techniques sanctioned by the Bush-Cheney Administration."

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Jan, Evergreen, CO

    Man this really reeks. The CIA was really stupid for doing this. I bet that the American distrust with both the CIA and the Bush/Darth/Halliburton administration is really riding high and will only go higher. Boy we are really looked down upon from all over the world because of sneaky low-life stuff as this.

    December 7, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. Kim, Dallas, TX

    I am so frustrated with our government, I can't believe this is the USA. The CIA obstruction of justice, waterboarding/torture, the new NIE report and Bush's rhetoric against Iran anyway....the list goes on and on and on. Then there is the past endeavers: Valerie Plame, fired judges, faulty intelligence against Iraq and our bombing them anyway, violating the Geneva Convention, Abu Graib, Haliburton and no bid contracts, PNAC, and then you consider Bush wasn't even really elected, Karl Rove's manipulation of the elective process. What has happened to our country. I find this all so frustrating and yet NOTHING ever seems to be done about it. We will probably watch Bush take us to another unfounded war due to our own ignorance and apathy and a congress that cannot seem to get anything accomplished.

    Then you consider the new candidates. I can't believe that Clinton is even being considered with her shoddy past and deceptive actions. Guiliani would be more of the same, McCain sounds like a good man, but is too much of a wannabe like Bush towards Iran. The only two that appear to be any change at all are Obama and Huckabee. We need to get rid of all of congress; clean out the whole government and start over. We cannot afford an apathetic stance towards anything anymore. Too much of that has given us what we currently have now. This is just appalling to me. Kennedy was a very good president and was able to get through some extremely unnerving situations with Cuba/Soviet Union and our own CIA. He cleaned out the CIA due to their involvement with Northwood. Pay attention and let's do what's right for our country.

    December 7, 2007 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  3. Denis, NJ

    While everybody's talking, Biden is doing something.

    December 7, 2007 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Bob Delaware OH

    Who does the CIA think they are? The KGB? lol
    The KGB torment was so awful that U2 pilots of USSR overflights were given cyanide pills in case of a shoot-down (so they wouldnt have to go through it)

    December 7, 2007 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  5. Wyatt Medford,Oregon

    The only hope I see out of this mess, that the Bush Adminstration has made, is a BIDEN victory!

    December 7, 2007 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  6. Cammie, Baltimore, MD

    Note what John McCain said:

    "I wish they had listened to members of Congress who said they should not do so (destroy the tapes)."

    If he is being quoted correctly, this means that members of Congress KNEW about the tapes. Democrat and Republican. They also KNEW that the CIA was considering destroying the tapes. This indicates that members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, were briefed on this matter and did not ORDER the CIA to preserve the tapes.

    Perhaps Senator Clinton was one of the members of Congress who was briefed? Governor Bill Richardson and John Edwards are out of the loop. Was Biden really unaware of the existence of the tapes? I do wonder.....

    December 7, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Bob, Bowling Green, Ohio

    Waterboarding is not a "harsh interrogation technique." It's torture. And as such it's a war crime under both U.S. and international law. It's long past time that Congress open an impeachment investigation into the heinous conduction of the Bush administration. If they fail to do so the rhetoric of Biden et al. is just so much hot air. We need true accountability now.

    December 7, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. SK,HN,HI

    I think everyone knows better to what the reasons are on why the tapes are destroyed, but don't want to 'politically' admit it. When the government wants answers for a subject, the CIA is told to do whatever it takes and use any means. But when the bullet comes back around, the politicians seem to run for the hills like cowards. Too much media attention that eventually, will bring out some poor CIA member to be hung out to dry, and after, things will continue as they always have, until the next 'woops' incident when the government does it again and needs a sacrificial lamb to make it seem like they are doing something right or needs a vote.

    December 7, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  9. CIA,LA.


    December 7, 2007 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  10. Kristy Sanborn, Buckhorn, Mo.

    I don't know who's worse, Congress or CNN. If you don't agree with them, it doesn't get published.

    December 7, 2007 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  11. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Remember the Rose Law firm? And remember Hillarys midnight paper shredding...?? ok...back to your reading...

    December 7, 2007 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  12. Ben, Denver, Colorado

    What was on those tapes? What was on those tapes? What was on those tapes?

    December 7, 2007 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  13. MR, WS, FL

    How quickly we forget that over 3000 Americans were killed by an enemy of the U.S. on 9/11. The same enemy attempted similar fatal attacks on U.S. interests with the Cole, in Kenya, previously in NYC, and there might be a link to the Oklahoma bombing. Militant Islamo-fascists have beheaded Americans, and kept Americans hostage as far back as 1979 in Iran. The enemy ships IED's to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill our men and women, and forms cells in our country to plan future attacks against innocent Americans to terrorize us and destroy our economy. And some folks are up in arms because AMERICANS are trying diligently to defeat the enemy by extracting valuable information in the best way possible to save precious AMERICAN lives!

    The CIA operatives who performed the interrogations are heroes, and if they protected their identities by discarding worthless film, so be it. Let's ask Valerie Plame if she ever discard worthless intell. Let's ask Sandy Berger if he ever stole and discarded worthless intell. All is fair in war as long as it helps us defeat the enemy, and this will be forgotten once victory is declared.

    December 7, 2007 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  14. Randell, ID

    McCain has no platform, except for attacking other people.

    December 8, 2007 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  15. Gary, Oakland, California

    New Mexico Sen. Bill Richardson directed most of his criticism at the White House.
    Come on, CNN! Who writes this stuff? The guy from NASCAR.COM who wrote that Dale Earnhardt had 8 Championships? He didn't put a by line on his articles either...

    December 8, 2007 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  16. Alice Newman Center Harbor NH

    "White House press secretary Dana Perino said Friday that President Bush did not recall being told about the tapes or their destruction."

    The only words in the GOP dictionary: "mistakes were made" (never I made a mistake) and "I don't recall." ... it also came out this week that the president knew that Iraq had stopped making nuclear weapons 4 years ago and was sill ranting about WWIII!

    And the GOP sits silent. If this were Clinton, they would be foaming at the mouth, howling about deception, lies and video tapes.

    McCain sums it all up by saying "McCain, a presidential candidate, said while campaigning in New Hampshire on Friday that he would not side with Democrats' calls for an investigation because he believed the CIA's actions were legal."

    Right or wrong doesn't matter – never side with truth or justice or Democrats who are trying to find answers – McCain has the GOP gut that knows whats happening – just like the homeland security hack.

    Since water boarding is such a benign way of finding the truth ... lets start with the CIA director and work our way down. They all say is really effective and with no lasting effects. Quicker than a Congressional hearing!

    December 8, 2007 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  17. mark wilkes barre pa

    The CIA destroying documents is nothing new or inherent to this administration. they do this to protect there people's identities in order to keep them from being " outed " they do this because it protects high level members of the presidents staff who need to make the tough decisions no one wants to make, but have to make. Yes it looks bad I agree, but has to be done at times. this has been going on since the cia started. All your candidates know this and if elected" Will " have a need for the CIA and all they have to offer good or bad. Good luck proving the CIA broke the law during war. shame on those running for president who try and make this look like a Bush criminal act. War is ugly, war is bloody, war is dirty,,When we go to war ,we should go to war to win. If water boarding is a last chance result in getting what we need out of our enemy to win the war or foil a terrorist's act, that would be "one " of those tough decisions the CIA would want to make invisable.

    December 8, 2007 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  18. Jung Germany

    so everyone is upset that the CIA destroyed some tapes. where was the out cry over berger destroying papers before he testified before the 9-11 commission.
    Oops, I forgot he was covering for the clintons. so he gets a pass from the dems and the press.

    December 8, 2007 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  19. Kristy Sanborn, Buckhorn, Mo.

    If Congress is bought and paid for, maybe they are afraid of being exposed?

    December 8, 2007 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  20. mark wilkes barre pa

    the Cia has been doing this sort of thing for ever. they will protect there operatives lives and cover any way they have to. they will protct the president and his staff when they are forced to make tough decisions during war any way they have to. War is tough , War is hell , war is ugly, War is dirty as can be,,,Wars are meant to be won and thats what we will do

    December 8, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. Aaron Smithsburg, Maryland

    To MR, WS, FL
    All the attacks you mentioned are partially our fault to begin with? What I mean is that all those attacks could have been prevented if someone in our government was doing their jobs. The U.S.S. Cole for example; keep in mind one of my best friends was killed on board during the attack; He told me before they left Norfolk that In Aden they needed to be careful, even before he left, had a bad feeling. Someone dropped the ball? How does a multi- billion dollar, state of the art destroyer, allow a small boat full of Yemeni trash float along side and blow up? Their are protocols to be followed in foreign ports that were not obeyed. Period. Our government is just as liable as Sudan as far as I'm concerned. Next Kenya, a car bomb that got in side of the the embassy compound? Can you say lax security? Finally 911? Why was NORAD told to stand down? Those planes should have had F-16s escorting them to the ground as soon as they veered off course. Period. No compliance from the terrorists they should have been shot down. Period. Take a look at the Phoenix memo and tell me that the government had no prior knowledge to the 911 plot. The government has destroyed what used to be America, by creating new laws and protocols, when they didn't follow the ones in the books to begin with? Don't use my friend Firemen Patrick Howard Roy 1981 -2000 as an excuse to roll back all of our civil liberties. Period. Those who would exchange security for freedom deserve neither! No I didn't forget about those people killed, quite the opposite, I'm still pissed off about their senseless deaths.

    December 9, 2007 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  22. Bob, Delaware OH

    To CIA LA, come on we are LOOSING the war in Iraq, we havent caight Osama BL, all our former allies are miffed at us, plus there is lots of other "doom and gloom" like being, as a country, tops in racism and anti-semitism. The CIA is a failure of historical proportions lol

    December 9, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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