Dec. 9, 2007 — -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden this morning called for a special counsel to investigate the destruction of videos that showed CIA interrogation of terror suspects.
"It appears as though there may be an obstruction of justice charge here, tampering with evidence and destroying evidence," said Biden, D-Del., on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
"I think this is one case where it really does call for a special counsel," he said. "I think this leads right into the White House. There may be a legal and rational explanation, but I don't see any on the face of it."
But Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House, disagreed in a separate "This Week" interview.
"I think that's exactly wrong," he said, "just because I think special counsels are a nightmare. I think the special counsels end up having to find somebody guilty of something to justify spending their life doing things."
The CIA and Justice Department announced on Saturday plans to investigate why interrogation tapes of al Qaeda prisoners were destroyed. The tapes were erased despite warnings from the White House and members of Congress.
Biden, who is also a 2008 presidential candidate, conceded that CIA Director Mike Hayden might be correct in saying that the destruction of the tapes was fully lawful.
"I'm not sure he's wrong," Biden said. "But the point of the matter is I think that Hayden is not to be the judge of whether or not his ordering or his condoning the destroying of the tapes was lawful."
Biden further defended the need for an independent investigation by calling into question the credibility of the Attorney General Michael Mukasey's office within the Justice Department.
"Let me put it this way -- rhetorical question: [Is there] anything this attorney general's office has done since this guy has become president that you're going to take on face value? Not me. Not me."
Gingrich again disagreed.
"We have a brand new attorney general," he said. "As you pointed out, Democrats supported him. I see no reason to believe he's a dishonest person, and I think that he ought to look into it. He ought to report. The House and Senate ought to be looking over his shoulder. I think this is very unacceptable."
Biden, who voted against Mukasey's nomination, said the investigation would be "clearer and crisper, and everyone will know what the truth is, if ... he appoints a special counsel, steps back from it."
Both Gingrich and Biden also addressed this week's national intelligence estimate on Iran, which alleged that the country abandoned its nuclear program in 2003.
Gingrich rejected the report, saying its authors "deliberately undermined the administration. I think this is the equivalent of a coup d'etat by the bureaucracy."
Biden, however, defended the findings of the NIE.
"I like Newt. I really do," he said. "But who are you going to believe, Newt Gingrich's assessment or 16 intelligence agencies in the United States of America reaching a unanimous decision."