By Stephanie Sklar
All Voices | Apr 19, 2010
CIA e-mails indicate that the ex-agency head, Porter Goss, agreed with a top aide’s 2005 decision to destroy videotapes of the harsh interrogation of a terror suspect, according to The Associated Press.
The videos showed CIA interrogators using waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah as well as not adhering to the waterboarding techniques authorized by the Bush administration.
The documents indicate that the CIA’s top clandestine officer, Jose Rodriguez, worried that the 92 tapes would be “devastating” to the agency if they surfaced.
In a November 2005 e-mail, Rodriguez told Goss and others that he “felt it was important to destroy the tapes and that if there was any heat, he would take it.”
Goss laughed and said he’d be the one to take the heat.
The e-mail then states that “PG agreed with the decision.”
The author’s name is redacted. Intelligence officials have said that Goss did not approve the destruction of the tapes and was angry when he found out about it.
Rodriguez’s lawyer has disputed that.
Under a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Justice Department released the e-mails on Thursday. They indicated that Bush’s top lawyer, Harriet Miers, and her CIA counterpart, John Rizzo, didn’t find out that the tapes had been destroyed until two days later and were both angry.
In 2006, Rodriguez sent a memo approving the destruction, saying that the CIA had no legal requirement to keep the tapes.
Although it’s unclear who told Rodriguez that, a subsequent e-mail indicates that either somebody lied to Rodriguez or that Rodriguez lied in regard to having gotten approval.
“Rizzo does not think this is likely to just go away,” the e-mail predicts.
Prosecutor John Durham is still investigating whether any crime was committed.
“These documents provide evidence that senior CIA officials were willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture,” said ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner. “If the Department of Justice fails to hold these officials accountable, they will have succeeded in their cover-up.”
CIA spokesman George Little said that the agency has continued to cooperate with the investigation.
The tapes were destroyed in Thailand. The CIA’s ex-top officer there has not responded to repeated messages seeking comment.