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CIA's Rodriguez: I Know Torture Worked Because I Destroyed the Tapes

April 7, 2014

This week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to release a declassified version of its 6,000 page report on the CIA's abuses and deceptions as part President Bush's program so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Predictably, its architects immediately circled the wagons. On Fox News, former Bush National Security Adviser and CIA Director Michael Hayden called Committee Chairman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) too "emotional." Meanwhile, Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's Clandestine Service at the time, took to the Washington Post op-ed page to declare:

I ran the CIA interrogation program. No matter what the Senate report says, I know it worked.

That's a pretty remarkable statement for Rodriguez of all people to make. After all, he admits "People might think it is wrong for me to condemn a report I haven't read." But what's more jaw-dropping still is what he refuses to mention: Jose Rodriguez personally ordered the destruction of dozens of video-taped detainee interrogations whose legality and effectiveness he now vouches for.
In his piece for the Post, Rodriguez tells the American people they can 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. As for Jose Rodriguez, who did not read the report, his message is simple.
You're welcome.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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