White House pushes back against Times' tapes story

The Bush administration isn't happy about a report linking it to the destruction of tapes of CIA interrogations.

Published December 19, 2007 3:30PM (EST)

Well, that didn't take long. The Bush administration, clearly unhappy with the New York Times' report that White House lawyers were involved in discussions about whether to destroy tapes of CIA interrogations of al-Qaida suspects, has already begun going after the story.

In a statement, White House press secretary Dana Perino focuses on one specific allegation in the Times' story, that the administration was more closely tied to the decision than it has acknowledged. Perino argues that since she has refused public comment on the matter, the Times' reporting is inaccurate in this respect.

"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," Perino writes. "Furthermore, we have not described -- neither to highlight, nor to minimize -- the role or deliberations of White House officials in this matter.

"The New York Times' inference that there is an effort to mislead in this matter is pernicious and troubling, and we are formally requesting that NYT correct the sub-headline of this story."

Update: The Hill reports, "Catherine Mathis, senior vice president of corporate communications for the newspaper, stated that the sub-headline has been changed, adding that a correction would be printed. However, Mathis also pointed out that the White House did not challenge the contents of the article."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Cia The New York Times War Room