After Destroying Video Evidence, CIA's Rodriguez Slams Senate Torture Report
After five years and $40 million, a declassified version of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report may finally be released next week. But in advance of its arrival, the CIA's former head of clandestine services has resurfaced again to declare the report "an egregious falsehood" and "a dishonest attempt to rewrite history." Of course, that is an outrageous and disgusting claim for Jose Rodriguez of all people to make. After all, it was the same Jose Rodriguez who personally ordered the destruction of dozens of video-taped detainee interrogations whose legality and effectiveness he now vouches for.
In his Washington Post op-ed on Friday, Rodriguez mocks current CIA critics including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) for having begged the agency after 9/11, "Do something! Do it now! Why didn't you do something sooner?" Moreover, he claims they gave tacit approval to waterboarding and other supposed "enhanced interrogation techniques" when they claimed in 2002 that the war on Al Qaeda would no longer be "business as usual." And yet just days after the United States admitted to the UN panel monitoring the Convention Against Torture that America had tortured terror detainees during Rodriguez' tenure, he protested:
The interrogation program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, judged legal by the Justice Department and proved effective by any reasonable standard.
In an earlier Washington Post piece in April, Jose Rodriguez assured Americans they could take his word for it:
Certain senators have proclaimed how devastating the findings are, saying the CIA's program was unproductive, badly managed and misleadingly sold. Unlike the committee's staff, I don't have to examine the program through a rearview mirror. I was responsible for administering it, and I know that it produced critical intelligence that helped decimate al-Qaeda and save American lives...
When portions of the report are released, I hope the CIA's response, pointing out its flawed analysis, is also made public. But before anything is released, authorities must ensure that we don't make the job of my successors, who are trying to prevent future terrorist attacks, any harder.
Of course, it was Rodriguez who helped make impossible any objective evaluations of the interrogations of Al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a secret C.I.A. detention facility in Thailand. Earlier this year, the CIA's top lawyer at the time John Rizzo revealed Rodriguez acted without legal blessing:
Rizzo even writes that he tried to stop the destruction of the tapes when he was told the decision was being teed up in 2005. He writes that Rodriguez sent the cable authorizing the destruction of the tapes without copying him or any other lawyers at the agency. "No names of CIA lawyers were on the coordination line of the cable Jose signed authorizing the tapes' destruction. Case closed. My guys never saw it before it went out," Rizzo wrote.
In his own book (Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives), Rodriguez makes clear he left no detail to chance:
"My chief of staff drafted a cable approving the action that we had been trying to accomplish for so long. The cable left nothing to chance. It even told them how to get rid of the tapes."
Jose A. Rodriguez was never prosecuted for his destruction of those 92 tapes on November 29, 2005. In 2010, Bush appointee John Durham decided against bringing any charges. His lawyer, Robert Bennett, responded by declaring, "He deserves a medal, not an investigation." The right-wing echo chamber couldn't agree more. As Mona Charen put it in her December 2007 column ("Destroying CIA Tapes Deserves a Thank You"):
In the next few months, his name will likely be dragged through the mud, and he will be vilified as a rogue official engaged in a massive cover-up. I think he deserves a medal...
Even though he is likely to become a scapegoat, what he did was right. He protected not just his men but all of us. I, for one, thank him.
Most Americans would probably prefer to read the Senate's torture report first before jumping to that conclusion. But they may not get the chance, because the Obama administration and in particular Secretary of State John Kerry are apparently getting cold feet about potential blowback from allied governments and intelligence services who participated in the Bush administration's regime of detainee rendition and torture. If Chairman Feinstein does not release the highly redacted, 480 page summary now, the incoming Republican Chairman could bury the report outright. As Oregon Senator Ron Wyden explained:
"It is hardly surprising that there is an 11th-hour objection to releasing this vital report because there have been objections at every hour for quite some time. My own view is that many Americans will be deeply angered when they read this report about misdeeds and mistakes and out-and-out falsehoods. It is critically important that this report not be pushed under the rug, buried before the American people have a chance to see it."
Meanwhile, Jose Rodriguez is happy to tell Americans everything they need to know about the interrogation programs he ran for President Bush. As he put it before having seen the Intelligence Committee's findings in April:
"I ran the CIA interrogation program. No matter what the Senate report says, I know it worked."