Besides the obvious, generally arrived-at conclusions in this business of the CIA "destroying videotapes" of torture, it strikes your correspondent that this story seems a trifle anachronistic. "Videotape," in this decade of TiVo and YouTube, is as outmoded as audiocassettes and LPs. I imagine that our outraged lawmakers picture, in their "series of tubes" understanding of digital technology, that Company goons lifted a box full of VHS cassettes from a hidey-hole somewhere in Langley, took 'em out back in the woods, poured some gas on the box, and flicked a match at it. There. Problem safely averted.
The fact of the matter is, videotape that can be taken into the woods and burnt has been an outmoded technology since the mid-Nineties. It's true that digital recording media can be destroyed just as easily as a box of tapes, but surely -- surely -- an operation as technically sophisticated as The Company would make backups, and backups of backups, of any and all recordings. In 2007, it strains credulity to the breaking point to try to convince a Congressional committee that the record of an event that was recorded on digital video was destroyed utterly, without a chance of reconstruction.
OK, so they erased the files off the hard disks that held the backups. Those can be reconstructed, too, as they always used to tell me in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility where I worked in the late Eighties, an armored, lead-lined room that no floppy disk ever left, on pain of its purveyor's dismissal and prosecution.
Stop telling me they "destroyed the videotapes." I have no reason to believe that any of those recordings -- not tapes -- will ever see the light of day, but stop trying to fob me off with a story of burnt or erased tape. They exist somewhere.