NASA lawyer: I destroyed recordings

Published May 25, 2007

CAPE CANAVERAL - NASA's top lawyer said Thursday that he destroyed several DVD recordings of a talk between the space agency's boss and the staff of its internal watchdog office because he wanted to make sure the meeting details weren't made public.

"I personally made the decision to destroy them, " NASA general counsel Michael Wholley told a House subcommittee in Washington. "I did so by breaking them into pieces and throwing them in the trash."

Wholley said that at the time, he considered the meeting to be private and one that shouldn't have been recorded. He worried that if the DVDs were kept by the agency, they could be subject to public record laws.

The DVDs recorded an April 10 meeting in Washington between NASA administrator Michael Griffin and staff members in NASA's inspector general office. Griffin had called for the meeting after a scathing report said NASA inspector general Robert Cobb appeared to be too friendly with the space agency bosses and created an abusive work environment.

After that report came out in early April, three key Democratic members of Congress called for Cobb's removal. But Griffin instead proposed sending Cobb to leadership training.

Two inspector general managers testified Thursday that they were surprised that Cobb was present at the April 10 meeting.

Inspector general meetings were recorded routinely for staff members who couldn't attend. Inspector general staff members at NASA's 10 centers around the nation also participated in the April meeting by video linkup; copies of the meeting recorded at those centers also were destroyed.