Even if the videotapes of interrogation sessions that were destroyed by the Central Intelligence Agency showed nothing illegal or untoward, their destruction could still be a violation of the federal law which requires the preservation of official records, suggested Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) yesterday.
Rep. Waxman asked Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein to render a judgment as to whether the destruction of the videotapes was consistent with the law.
“I would like your opinion on whether the CIA’s destruction of these videotapes was in accordance with the Federal Records Act and your implementing regulations,” Waxman wrote (pdf) on December 11.
CIA’s records management failures, including inadequate preservation of audiovisual records, are a longstanding
concern of the National Archives and Records Administration.
“Videos stored in the ARC [CIA Agency Records Center] are in danger of catastrophic loss due to tape binder failure and/or fungal contamination,” the Archives found in a 2000 audit of CIA records management practices.
And some CIA employees seemed oblivious to the laws governing record preservation, NARA reported.
“Some of the agency personnel who create and maintain special media do not recognize them as federal records that may be disposed only in accordance with NARA-approved schedules,” the Archives audit found.
The 2000 audit of “Records Management in the Central Intelligence Agency,” cited in Rep. Waxman’s letter, was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act.
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) yesterday asked the White House to explicitly confirm that a White House directive to preserve records related to the destruction of CIA videotapes encompassed all White House records.
“In light of the Office of the Vice President’s record of fatuous arguments that it is not subject to the authority of the President, please also confirm that the directive included the Office of the Vice President and that the Office of the Vice President intends to comply,” Sen. Biden wrote.
Sen. Biden was apparently referring to the Vice President’s position, recently endorsed by the Justice Department, that his Office is not an “executive branch entity” for purposes of classification oversight.