Did Bush really know less than Dems about CIA tapes?

Bush doesn’t recollect being told of CIA tapes

Nick Juliano

Despite the fact that at least two Democratic lawmakers knew about CIA tapes being destroyed, President Bush is claiming that he has “no recollection” of ever being briefed on the matter.At Friday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked by a reporter, “On these CIA videotapes, did either the president or vice president or Condoleezza Rice, when she was national security adviser, or Steve Hadley see them before they were destroyed?”

“I spoke to the president — and so I will have to defer on the others, but I spoke to the president this morning about this,” Perino said. “He has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday. He was briefed by General Hayden yesterday morning. And as to the others, I’ll have to — you know, I’ll refer you to the Vice President’s Office, and I’ll see if I can get the others.”

Video of Perino’s press conference can be seen at this link.

If true, Perino’s assertion would mean Bush was unaware of the CIA’s actions even while top Congressional officials were briefed on the agency’s actions. The top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees both have said they long knew about the tapes — which reportedly show CIA interrogators “waterboarding” suspected al Qaeda detainees. One says she cautioned the CIA about the tapes nearly five years before Bush’s spokesman claims the president knew anything about them.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) was the ranking intelligence committee in the House, and she now says she sent a classified letter to the CIA in early 2003 urging the agency not to destroy the tapes, as they previously informed members of Congress they would.

“Given the nature of the classification, I was not free to mention this subject publicly until Director Hayden disclosed it yesterday,” Harman said. “To my knowledge, the Intelligence Committee was never informed that any videotapes had been destroyed. Surely I was not.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who now chairs the Senate intel committee, says he learned the tapes were destroyed in November 2006 — more than a year before Bush knew what was going on in his intelligence community — but was unable to press the issue because of the information was classified.

“I’m really sick of this – OK, I’m angry about it,” Rockefeller said. “It’s a manipulation of the Congress – the use of two people of the Senate, two people out of the House, because nobody else can be told, including our committee. We can’t even talk to anybody, and they say, ‘Oh, they were briefed.’ ”