Marty Lederman speculates that it was Dana Priest’s Pulitzer-Prize winning series on CIA Black Sites in 2005 that made everybody think they better start destroying evidence and covering their tracks:

Let’s not lose sight of the big picture. This was not something they did on the spur of the moment. They vetted it with Rockefeller and Harman, for goodness’ sake, and then destroyed the tapes after Harman urged them not to do so. And right after Judge Brinkema’s orders started hitting close to home and Dana Priest broke the black sites story. [Check out this great timeline from emptywheel -- pay close attention to all that's going on in October/November 2005.] I retract what I said earlier: This was the CIA. They must have gotten DOJ approval (Gonzales, anyway) for the destruction. And the POTUS and/or VP, too. And all of these folks they knew full well what the fallout might be. And they knew about criminal laws involving obstruction. Most importantly, they were actually destroying what might be incredibly valuable evidence for future uses — valuable for criminal trials, for intelligence investigations, for training purposes, and, most importantly, as a key tile in their vaunted, hallowed "mosaic" of evidence developed to construct an accurate story about al Qaeda.

And yet they chose to destroy anyway, after what must have been a lot of internal debate. Which goes to show that . . . the cover-up is not worse than the crime, and they knew it. Those tapes must have depicted pretty gruesome evidence of serious criminal conduct. Conduct that would be proof positive of serious breaches of at least two treaties. Conduct approved and implemented at the highest levels of government.

Marcy wonders about John Yoo’s culpability — did he even believe the legal advice he was giving?