Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
December 20, 2007
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Statement of Brian Roehrkasse, Director of Public Affairs,
In Response to Inquiries about the Justice Department’s Request that Congress Temporarily Defer its Oversight Investigation

"The Department of Justice provided the House Intelligence Committee a letter last Friday that addressed the Committee’s requests to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for documents and testimony about the reported destruction of videotapes of CIA interrogations. In that letter, we respectfully requested that the Committee temporarily defer its investigation as we conduct our preliminary inquiry into the facts surrounding the videotape destruction, and asked for the Committee’s indulgence in this matter in order to assure our best opportunity to develop those facts and evaluate them in light of the relevant law.

"We have no desire to block any congressional investigation. To the contrary, as we explained in our letter, we fully appreciate the importance of the Committee’s oversight efforts. The wisdom, propriety and appropriateness of the decision to destroy these tapes are worthy and compelling subjects of an oversight investigation.

"Furthermore, we have not advised the CIA not to cooperate with the Committee. We understand that the Committee has the full jurisdiction and prerogative to conduct this oversight over the CIA. We simply request that this oversight be conducted in a way and in a time frame that minimizes the negative implications for our preliminary inquiry – implications that could conceivably include: the disruption of our initial witness interviews, the delay and disruption of our document collection, and the tainting of any future criminal prosecutorial action because of Congressional grants of immunity to witnesses. These implications are of greatest concern at this very early stage of our preliminary inquiry – which is barely a week old – and will lessen as we proceed in the inquiry.

"While we remain concerned about these potential implications for our preliminary inquiry, we are hopeful they can and will be avoided through ongoing consultation and coordination with the Committee.

"We look forward to working cooperatively with the Committee to advance our respective and compatible goals of assessing potential criminal accountability and ensuring vigorous oversight of the Intelligence Community."