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Thread: CIA Admits It Destroyed Tapes Of Interrogations

  1. #121
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    Jan 2005
    No charges to be filed in destruction of CIA tapes

    By David Edwards
    Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 -- 1:04 pm

    There will be no criminal charges over the destruction of CIA tapes showing interrogation of terrorism detainees, according to a new report.

    Federal prosecutors have determined that there is not enough evidence to bring charges, two sources have told NPR.

    The statue of limitations expired Monday so no future prosecutions will be possible.

    A few of the tapes allegedly contained evidence showing the interrogation of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Intelligence officials told NBC News that one of the tapes showed Zubaydah being waterboarded. Other tapes contained innocuous images of other detainees.

    The CIA reportedly destroyed the tapes in November 2005. The Senate Intelligence Committee's Democratic chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, learned of their destruction in November 2006.

    Then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey named Assistant US Attorney John Durham to lead an investigation in January 2008.

    Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham's mandate last year and asked him to look into whether the CIA or contractors went beyond legal interrogation methods. That investigation is ongoing, according to NPR's sources.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #122
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    Jan 2005
    Justice dept.: no charges in CIA tape case

    By PETE YOST, Associated Press Pete Yost, Associated Press – 12 mins ago

    WASHINGTON – The CIA's former top clandestine officer and others won't be charged in the destruction of CIA videotapes of interrogations of suspected terrorists, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

    Another part of the criminal investigation is continuing into whether CIA interrogators went beyond the legal guidance given them on treatment of the suspects during questioning, a Justice Department official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because that part of the probe is still under way.

    The CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005.

    Jose Rodriguez, formerly the agency's top clandestine officer, worried the 92 tapes would be devastating to the CIA if they ever surfaced. He approved the destruction of the tapes. Rodriguez's order was at odds with years of directives from CIA lawyers and the White House.

    A lawyer for Rodriguez, Robert Bennett, said the Justice Department decision "is the right decision because of the facts and the law."

    Bennett called Rodriguez "an American hero, a true patriot who only wanted to protect his people and his country."

    Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham has been investigating the destruction of the videotapes since January 2008.

    A team of prosecutors and FBI agents led by Durham has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter, said Matthew Miller, director of the Justice Department's office of public affairs.

    "As a result of that investigation, Mr. Durham has concluded that he will not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes," Miller said.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #123
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    Jan 2005
    Hellerstein Vexed on Remedy for CIA Tape Destruction

    Mark Hamblett
    New York Law Journal
    January 18, 2011

    The destruction of videotapes in 2005 showing abusive treatment of high-level al-Qaida detainees by CIA agents flouted an order by Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein to preserve the tapes. Five years later, the judge is still looking for a remedy.

    On Friday, Judge Hellerstein said he wants some acceptance of responsibility for the incident by the Central Intelligence Agency as well as an indication that corrective action has been taken for violating his 2004 order to preserve the tapes. The 92 tapes cover the interrogation of two top al-Qaida figures through the use of waterboarding and other coercive measures.

    "This kind of destruction never should have occurred," the judge said to lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the government at a hearing on Friday. "It tells the court the CIA does not trust the judges to have proper regard for the security interests of the United States."

    The case of American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Defense, 04-cv-04151, was brought under the Freedom of Information Act, with the plaintiffs seeking details on the possible deaths and mistreatment of prisoners at the hands of U.S. personnel and the rendition or transfer of some prisoners to countries that practice torture during interrogations.

    Judge Hellerstein issued his order for the tapes' preservation in September 2004, as the CIA inspector general was investigating the treatment of detainees. The 92 tapes, however, were destroyed on Nov. 9, 2005, at the direction of a high-level CIA official.

    During a contempt hearing in 2008, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Skinner argued before Judge Hellerstein that his order was not violated because it "required us to review what was collected by the office of the inspector general and [the tapes] were never collected by the office of the inspector general" (NYLJ, Jan. 18, 2008).

    Judge Hellerstein did not buy it. He said it "boggles the mind" that there was a whole study completed on how the CIA treats prisoners for interrogation purposes and "now I'm asked to believe that actual moving pictures, videotapes, of the relationships between interrogators and prisoners are of so little value" that they were not retained.

    Nonetheless, the judge said at the time that a contempt finding against a government agency would do no more than generate "a newspaper headline."

    On Friday, Judge Hellerstein said he still saw little value in holding the government in contempt, in part because civil contempt against an agency is usually used to obtain compliance with an existing order and would therefore accomplish little.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara M. LaMorte told the judge his rulings had already achieved remedial purposes, including his dual order for the government to assemble and produce documents reflecting or commenting on the contents of the videotapes and gather other documents relating to the destruction of the tapes.

    "Then how come I don't feel a great sense of accomplishment?" Judge Hellerstein asked.

    Ms. LaMorte told the judge the purpose of a contempt finding was to "make the plaintiffs whole" and she reminded Judge Hellerstein that he had said the purpose of civil contempt is not punishment.

    Later, Ms. LaMorte added, "The CIA takes this very seriously" but "we can't go back in time and not destroy the videotapes."

    She said the government was amenable to asking the CIA for a report for the judge on how it addressed the destruction and how such an action can be prevented in the future. She also said she was open to discussing another way to conclude the litigation with an award of attorney's fees to the plaintiffs.

    Speaking for the plaintiffs, Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons agreed that certain remedial measures had been taken, but he said that there was good reason for the court to explore the notion of contempt or sanctions.

    "It gives courts the ability to express the necessity of agencies to obey a court order," Mr. Lustberg said. "There is a sense [of] community outrage [over] an agency not obeying a court order that has not been stated."

    Although Judge Hellerstein had earlier expressed concern over the difficulty of holding individual CIA officials to account, particularly since some of their identities are confidential, Mr. Lustberg said there were "some individuals who we can identify, and we can identify publicly, who were instrumental in the destruction of the tapes."

    Judge Hellerstein asked for briefs from both sides about the best way to proceed and bring the case to a conclusion.

    Ms. LaMorte also volunteered to have the judge hear from John H. Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to supervise a criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes.

    In November, the Justice Department said Mr. Durham had concluded he would not bring criminal charges against CIA officers.

    The judge said he would be happy to hear from Mr. Durham.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  4. #124
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    Jan 2005
    NYC judge refuses to cite CIA in 9/11 tape case

    The Associated Press

    A New York City federal judge says he won't hold the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of Sept. 11 detainee interrogations.

    At a hearing Monday, Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected the American Civil Liberties Union's arguments that the CIA should be held accountable for the destruction of 92 tapes. The ACLU alleges the tapes showed interrogators torturing key al-Qaida (al-KY'-ee-duh) operatives.

    The judge says citing the CIA wouldn't accomplish anything. But he agrees the agency should pay the ACLU's legal costs for pursuing the disclosures.

    The CIA claims the tapes were destroyed without top officials knowing and it's taken steps to make sure it couldn't happen again.

    The judge cited national security concerns when he said he likely would've ruled against making the tapes public if they'd been preserved.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  5. #125
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    Jan 2005
    CIA not in contempt over interrogation tapes, judge says

    By Basil Katz
    NEW YORK | Mon Aug 1, 2011 7:18pm EDT

    (Reuters) - A judge on Monday refused to find the CIA acted in contempt when it destroyed videotapes that showed harsh interrogations of two suspects.

    U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein told a Manhattan federal court hearing that efforts by the CIA to improve how it preserves documents was enough restitution, and that it should pay legal fees to the plaintiffs, the American Civil Liberties Union.

    "I don't think a citation of contempt will add to anything," Hellerstein said.

    In December 2007, the CIA acknowledged destroying dozens of videotapes made under a detention program begun after the September 11 attacks. The interrogations, in 2002, were of alleged al Qaeda members Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

    Until 2007, the CIA had publicly denied the tapes ever existed. They were destroyed in 2005.

    A probe by a special federal prosecutor last year found that no CIA personnel should face criminal charges for destroying the videotapes.

    Monday's decision came after years of legal battles between the CIA and the ACLU, which first sued the agency in 2004 to obtain documents on its treatment of prisoners.

    When news of the tapes surfaced, the ACLU said the CIA and its chief spy at the time had acted in contempt of court by trashing tapes that should have been preserved under a court order following the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

    By destroying the tapes, the CIA showed disrespect for the court, said Lawrence Lustberg, an attorney for the ACLU.

    Although the CIA failed in not disclosing and preserving the tapes, Judge Hellerstein said: "The bottom line is we are in a dangerous world. We need our spies, we need surveillance, but we also need accountability."

    As part of that accountability, the judge on Monday asked the CIA to detail the new policies it says it has implemented since the tapes were destroyed.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara La Morte, arguing for the CIA, said the CIA's new policies were "above and beyond" what the court required and that the ACLU was "out to exact retribution on the CIA."

    "I don't think that's correct," the judge interrupted.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  6. #126
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    Jan 2005
    Manhattan Judge Spares the CIA

    By Terin Tashi Miller

    The Central Intelligence Agency has avoided a potential showdown with a Manhattan federal judge.

    Judge Alvin Hellerstein (pictured) yesterday declined to find the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of its interrogations of Sept. 11 detainees, concluding that it would serve no beneficial purpose to penalize the agency, according to this AP report.

    Hellerstein also noted in his ruling that the CIA has put in place new procedures to prevent such destruction from happening again.

    The decision came in a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the ACLU against the Defense Department, the CIA, and several other government entities engaged in the arrest, detention, interrogation and rendition to other countries of prisoners caught up in the events following the 9/11 attacks. Filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the suit seeks the release of a range of governmental records.

    The government, AP reports, has acknowledged that in 2005 it destroyed 92 videotapes, including those containing interrogations of a high-level al-Qaeda lieutenant who claimed he suffered physical and mental torture at the hands of the CIA.

    The ACLU had requested that Hellerstein hold the CIA in contempt for its destruction of tapes. “We moved for contempt, or in the alternative for sanctions, because the CIA destroyed these tapes at a time when there was in place a Court Order to process them as a result of this Freedom of Information Act case,” Lawrence S. Lustberg, an attorney for the ACLU, told the Law Blog earlier this week.

    The judge concluded that the CIA’s new rules would have a “deterrent effect should a CIA official think to destroy documents,” AP reports. The new rules, Hellerstein wrote in his ruling, “should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction.”

    To bolster its contempt request, the ACLU recently sent a letter to the judge, addressing the CIA’s new policies regarding document preservation.

    “These new policies … are not responsive as to why and how the CIA destroyed hundreds of hours of videotape depicting hash interrogations, in violation of this court’s orders,” the ACLU letter said. “It is now even clearer that the tapes were destroyed not because of inadequate document preservation policies, but because high-level officials flouted agency policy to protect themselves and the agency from public scrutiny.”

    Alexander Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said in a statement that the ACLU was “profoundly disappointed by the court’s unwillingness to label as contempt what it describes as the CIA’s ‘dereliction.’”

    “The truth is that the CIA destroyed evidence of torture, and the destruction of this evidence has made it harder to hold high-level officials accountable for the abuse that they authorized,” Abdo said.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  7. #127
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    Jan 2005
    NY judge declines to find CIA in contempt over destruction of detainee interrogation tapes

    By Associated Press, Published: October 5

    NEW YORK — A federal judge declined Wednesday to find the CIA in contempt for destroying videotapes of Sept. 11 detainee interrogations, saying to do so would serve no beneficial purpose and the CIA had put in place new procedures to prevent such destruction from happening again.

    U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in a written ruling that the CIA has since remedied its failure to produce videotapes in response to requests by the American Civil Liberties Union. He wrote that the people processing the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act request may not have been aware of the videotapes’ existence before they were destroyed.

    The government has acknowledged destroying 92 videotapes, including those containing interrogations of a high-level al-Qaida lieutenant who claimed he suffered physical and mental torture at the hands of the CIA. The tapes were destroyed in 2005.

    In January, the judge said a contempt finding would be impractical and told the CIA to investigate itself and report how it will prevent employees from destroying information in the future. On Wednesday, he noted that the CIA adopted two new policies in August regarding document preservation to ensure that destruction of any documents outside of routine management of CIA materials will not occur without a review by lawyers to ensure they are preserved for legal proceedings or congressional oversight activity.

    The judge said the CIA’s new protocols would have “a remedial and deterrent effect should a CIA official think to destroy documents.”

    “The protocols should lead to better communication and more complete written records within the agency and across the government when an issue of document destruction or retention arises within the agency,” he said. “The CIA’s new protocols should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes’ destruction.”

    Alexander Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, wrote the ACLU was “profoundly disappointed by the court’s unwillingness to label as contempt what it describes as the CIA’s ‘dereliction.’”

    “We also strongly disagree with the court’s finding that the CIA has ‘remedied’ the destruction,” Abdo wrote. “The truth is that the CIA destroyed evidence of torture, and the destruction of this evidence has made it harder to hold high-level officials accountable for the abuse that they authorized.”

    Carly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for federal lawyers who argued the case, said the government had no comment on the ruling.

    In his ruling, the judge noted that the ACLU had cited a recently published article by a former general counsel for the CIA that accused the CIA’s former deputy director of operations of defying orders and going behind the top CIA lawyer’s back to destroy the videotapes.

    He said the argument premised on the belief that one high-ranking official defied orders and destroyed the tapes undermines the ACLU’s contention that the CIA as an agency should be held in contempt for the conduct.

    Still, the judge wrote, “the lapses of individuals cannot excuse the failures of the agency.” He said the CIA had an obligation to identify or produce the videotapes and “cannot be excused in its dereliction because of particular individuals’ lapses.”

    The administration of President George W. Bush had said some tapes were destroyed to protect the identities of the government questioners while the Department of Justice was debating whether the interrogation tactics were legal.

    In September 2009, the judge cited national security concerns in ruling that the CIA did not have to release hundreds of documents related to the destruction of the videotapes. He has said he likely would have ruled against public disclosure of videotapes documenting new harsh questioning techniques if the CIA had not destroyed them.

    An ACLU lawsuit already has forced the release of legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning, and slamming suspects into walls, techniques described by critics as torture.

    Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  8. #128
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    Jan 2005
    The CIA's impunity on 'torture tapes'
    That the CIA could destroy its videotapes of 9/11 conspirator interrogations without penalty is a shocking abuse of democracy


    Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean – the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission – are the prototypical Wise Old Men of Washington. These are the types chosen to head blue-ribbon panels whenever the US government needs a respectable, trans-partisan, serious face to show the public in the wake of a mammoth political failure. Wise Old Men of Washington are entrusted with this mission because, by definition, they are loyal, devoted members of the political establishment and will criticise political institutions and leaders only in the most respectful and restrained manner.

    That is why it was so remarkable when Hamilton and Kean, on 2 January 2008, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times repeatedly accusing the CIA and the Bush White House of knowingly "obstructing" their commission's investigation into the 9/11 attack. As many imprisoned felons can attest, the word "obstruction" packs a powerful punch as a legal term of art signifying the crime of "obstruction of justice", and yet, here were these two mild-mannered, establishment-protecting civil servants accusing CIA and Bush officials of that crime in the most public and unambiguous manner possible.

    What triggered this duo's uncharacteristic accusatory outburst was the revelation that the CIA had purposely destroyed numerous videos of interrogation sessions it had conducted with al-Qaida operatives (destroyed were 92 videos, showing hundreds of hours of interrogations). The 9/11 Commission had repeatedly demanded, with the force of law behind it, that all such interrogation materials be provided to it. Numerous courts presiding over lawsuits relating to torture allegations against the CIA had also ordered that any such videos be produced.

    But with those orders pending, the CIA destroyed the very evidence it was legally compelled to preserve. With at least the knowledge, if not direction, of White House officials, they did so almost certainly with the intent of preventing the world from seeing how they treated detainees in their custody – with torture – but the effect was to prevent the 9/11 Commission and multiple courts from learning what al-Qaida operatives said (or did not say) about 9/11 and other matters under investigation.

    That is why the CIA's actions were so clearly criminal: destroying evidence one knows is relevant to a lawful investigation or a judicial proceeding is the very essence of "obstruction of justice". Individuals are routinely prosecuted and imprisoned in the US for such acts in far less serious cases. So egregious and deliberate was the CIA's criminality – purposely destroying evidence relevant to the most significant terrorist attack in history on US soil – that not even Hamilton and Kean were willing to paper over it.

    Despite all that, there have been no legal consequences whatsoever for the crimes of these CIA officials. Last November, the Obama justice department – following the administration's all-too-familiar pattern of shielding Bush-era crimes from acountability – announced it was closing its criminal investigation into the matter with no charges filed. And this week, a federal judge, whose own order to produce these videos had been violated by the CIA, decided that he would not even impose civil sanctions or issue a finding of contempt because, as he put it, new rules issued by the CIA "should lead to greater accountability within the agency and prevent another episode like the videotapes' destruction".

    In other words, the CIA has promised not to do this again, so they shouldn't be punished for the crimes they committed. Aside from how difficult it is, given the agency's history, to make that claim without triggering a global laughing fit, it is also grounded in a principle of leniency rarely applied to ordinary citizens. After all, most criminal defendants caught up in the life-destroying hell of a federal prosecution are quite unlikely to repeat their crimes in the future, yet that fact is no bar to punishing them for the illegal acts they already committed.

    What actually produced this astounding outcome is the two-tiered system of justice that is now fully entrenched in the US: one in which ordinary Americans are subjected to a brutally harsh and unforgiving system of punishment, while political and financial elites are vested with virtually full-scale immunity for even the most egregious of crimes. It is that warped "justice" system that has caused Americans to witness the construction of the world's largest penal state for ordinary citizens at the very same time that the most destructive elite crimes – a worldwide torture regime, Wall Street plundering on a massive scale, illegal domestic eavesdropping, an aggressive war in Iraq that killed at least tens of thousands of innocents – have gone completely unpunished.

    As I spent the last 18 months writing my forthcoming book on this two-tiered justice system, I genuinely expected, as I recount there, that there would be indictments in the CIA video case, thus providing a counter-example to the book's argument that elites are now immune from the rule of law. "Even our political class," I wrote, "couldn't allow lawbreaking this brazen to go entirely unpunished." Alas, as Wednesday's court ruling (pdf) demonstrated, I was wrong: there is no elite criminality too egregious to enjoy this shield of immunity. Thus can the CIA purposely destroy evidence it has been ordered to produce both by a congressionally-created investigative commission and multiple courts – and do so with total impunity.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  9. #129
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    Jan 2005
    Top ex-CIA officer on waterboarding tape destruction: ‘Just getting rid of some ugly visuals’

    By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 6:18 PM

    WASHINGTON — The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives.

    Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama’s administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use.

    “I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled ‘torturers’ by the president of the United States,” Rodriguez writes in his book, “Hard Measures.”

    The book is due out April 30. The Associated Press purchased a copy Tuesday.

    The chapter about the interrogation videos adds few new details to a narrative that has been explored for years by journalists, investigators and civil rights groups. But the book represents Rodriguez’s first public comment on the matter since the tape destruction was revealed in 2007.

    That revelation touched off a political debate and ignited a Justice Department investigation that ultimately produced no charges. Critics accused Rodriguez of covering up torture and preventing the public from ever seeing the brutality of the CIA’s interrogations. Supporters hailed him as a hero who acted in the best interest of the country in the face of years of bureaucratic hand-wringing.

    The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.

    Especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Rodriguez writes, if the CIA’s videos were to leak out, officers worldwide would be in danger.

    “I wasn’t going to sit around another three years waiting for people to get up the courage,” to do what CIA lawyers said he had the authority to do himself, Rodriguez writes. He describes sending the order in November 2005 as “just getting rid of some ugly visuals.”

    Rodriguez writes critically of Obama’s counterterrorism policies today. With no way to capture and interrogate terrorists, Rodriguez says, the CIA relies far too much on drones. Unmanned aerial attacks alienate America’s foreign partners and make it impossible to question people in the know, he says.

    These points could foreshadow Republican attack lines in the presidential race because other former senior CIA officers are advising presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

    The killing of Osama bin Laden is Obama’s signature national security accomplishment, but Rodriguez writes that valuable intelligence from the CIA’s “black sites” helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden.

    The book is published by Threshold, a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster that also published former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  10. #130
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    Jan 2005
    Former CIA spy boss made an unhesitating call to destroy interrogation tapes

    By Dana Priest, Published: April 24

    The first and only time I met Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., he was still undercover and in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency’s all-powerful operations directorate. The agency had summoned me to its Langley headquarters and his mission was to talk me out of running an article I had just finished reporting about CIA secret prisons — the “black sites” abroad where the agency put al-Qaeda terrorists so they could be interrogated in isolation, beyond the reach and protections of U.S. law.

    The scene I walked into in November 2005 struck me as incongruous. The man sitting in the middle of the navy blue colonial-style sofa looked like a big-city police detective stuffed uncomfortably into a tailored suit. His face was pockmarked, his dark mustache too big to be stylish. He was not one of the polished career bureaucrats who populate the halls of power in Washington.

    In fact, he fit perfectly the description given by my sources: hardworking but not smooth, loyal to the institution and now, probably, beyond his depth. He was as surprised as anyone that he had risen so quickly to the senior ranks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the account of his decades-long spy career in “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.” The book is due out Monday, after an exclusive interview Sunday night on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The Washington Post obtained a copy this week.

    Shortly after the 2001 attacks, the CIA set up the secret prisons in Afghanistan, Thailand and several Eastern European countries for the explicit purpose of keeping detainees picked up on the battlefield or in other countries away from the U.S. justice system, which would grant them some protections against, among other things, torture or otherwise harsh treatment. In an effort to force these detainees to give their handlers information about terrorist plots, CIA interrogators subjected some of them to sleep and food deprivation, incessant loud noise and waterboarding.

    By the time we met, those techniques were no longer in use. Rodriguez had not dealt with American reporters, he writes, but then-CIA Director Porter J. Goss had asked him to meet with me “to see if I could convince her that such a story would harm U.S. national security, put some of our allies around the world in a very difficult position, and potentially disrupt a program that was providing intelligence that was producing real results and helping to keep the country safe.”

    What Rodriguez remembers from our conversation, according to his book, is that I brought him a copy of a book I had written about the U.S. military in an effort to butter him up. “That failed to soften my stance on the lack of wisdom of her proceeding with her article as planned,” he wrote, and “I could see I was not winning her over.” I remember bringing the book because I figured he didn’t know one reporter from the next, and I wanted him to know that I did in-depth work and didn’t want to just hear the talking points.

    A blunt explanation
    It became clear immediately that Rodriguez never even got the talking points, which was refreshing and surprising. Right away he began divulging awkward truths that other senior officers had tried to obfuscate in our conversations about the secret prisons: “In many cases they are violating their own laws by helping us,” he offered, according to notes I took at the time.

    Why not bring the detainees to trial?

    “Because they would get lawyered up, and our job, first and foremost, is to obtain information.”

    (Shortly after our conversation, The Post’s senior editors were called to the White House to discuss the article with President George W. Bush and his national security team. Days later, the newspaper published the story, without naming the countries where the prisons were located.)

    Rodriguez may have never felt the need to even reveal himself publicly or to write a book, complete with family photos, giving his version of many of the unconventional — and eventually repudiated — practices that the CIA engaged in after Sept. 11 had it not been for what happened shortly after our conversation.

    Concerned that the location of one of the prisons was about to be revealed, Rodriguez writes that he ordered the facility closed immediately and the detainees moved to a new site. While dismantling the site, the base chief asked Rodriguez if she could throw a pile of old videotapes, made during the early days of terrorist Abu Zubaida’s interrogation and waterboarding, and now a couple of years old, onto a nearby bonfire that was set to destroy papers and other evidence of the agency’s presence.

    Just at that moment, according to his account, a cable from headquarters came in saying: “Hold up on the tapes. We think they should be retained for a little while longer.”

    “Had that message been delayed by even a few minutes,” Rodriguez writes, “my life in the years following would have been considerably easier.”

    Those actions led to a lengthy and still ongoing investigation of the agency that produced no charges. Rodriguez retired in January 2008 and now works in the private sector.

    A tough CIA veteran
    Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico, the son of two teachers. He was educated at the University of Florida, where he also received a law degree before being recruited by the CIA. He once gained the confidence of a dictator in a Latin American country because of his gutsy horseback riding skills. He worked as the chief of station in several countries he does not name, and was sent to El Salvador during its bloody civil war (which he glosses over completely) and to Panama, where he pitched the idea of recruiting Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega’s witch doctor and putting him on the CIA payroll to persuade the dictator to retire to Spain. The CIA director at the time wasn’t impressed and instead, in 1989, “the United States followed a more traditional path: a military invasion.”

    On Sept. 11, 2001, he did what legions of CIA officers not at work that day did: He rushed into headquarters, even as people were being evacuated, and pitched in. Rodriguez ended up in the Counterterrorism Center, which quickly went from a backwater posting to the center of the universe at the agency.

    As CIA operations officers and analysts scrambled to figure out more about al-Qaeda and to plan a counterattack, Rodriguez was in the eye of the storm. “Hard Measures” takes readers through a highly sanitized — censored by the CIA, actually — version of events.

    Although many details are left out and most of the outlines of what Rodriguez writes will not come as news to close readers of newspapers, he does not shy away from addressing the most controversial parts of what became the largest covert action program in U.S. history: the secret decisions to capture suspected terrorists on the battlefield or on the streets and make them disappear from the face of the Earth. Using a fleet of airplanes, the CIA bundled its captives into a netherworld no one else had access to, flew them around the world, deposited them in secret underground prisons where it could control their every move and use especially harsh interrogation methods on some of the most senior prisoners.

    Many CIA officers had misgivings about these practices and what they might mean for America’s reputation around the world. Not Rodriguez. He is unabashedly confident that he and the agency did the right thing and saved lives in the process.

    “I am certain, beyond any doubt, that these techniques, approved at the highest levels of the U.S. government, certified by the Department of Justice, and briefed to and supported by bipartisan leadership of congressional intelligence oversight committees, shielded the people of the United States from harm and led to the capture of killing of Usama bin Ladin.”

    Of course, it is impossible to know this for certain, and many people inside and outside government — some of them involved in interrogations — have argued that with better-trained interrogators and more patience, the same information could have been obtained without such harsh methods.

    The most newsworthy part of the book is a chapter in which Rodriguez explains how he came to order the destruction of 92 videotapes of the interrogation of Abu Zubaida.

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has nearly completed a four-year-long review of the CIA’s post-Sept. 11 detention and interrogation practices.

    Shredding the tapes
    Rodriguez writes that he ordered the tapes’ destruction because he got tired of waiting for his superiors to make a decision. They had at least twice given him the go-ahead, then backed off. In the meantime, a senior agency attorney cited “grave national security reasons” for destroying the material and said the tapes presented ‘“grave risk” to the personal safety of our officers” whose identities could be seen on the recordings.

    In late April 2004, another event forced his hand, he writes. Photos of the abuse of prisoners by Army soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq ignited the Arab world and risked being confused with the CIA’s program, which was run very differently.

    “We knew that if the photos of CIA officers conducting authorized EIT [enhanced interrogation techniques] ever got out, the difference between a legal, authorized, necessary, and safe program and the mindless actions of some MPs [military police] would be buried by the impact of the images.

    “The propaganda damage to the image of America would be immense. But the main concern then, and always, was for the safety of my officers.”

    Readers may disagree with much of what Rodriguez writes and with the importance of some of the facts he omits from his book, but the above sentence speaks volumes about why this book is important. In this case, a loyal civil servant — and the decision-makers above him who blessed these programs — were not thinking about the larger, longer-lasting damage to the core values of the United States that disclosure of these secrets might cause. They were thinking about the near term. About efficiency. About the safety of friends and colleagues. In their minds, they were thinking, too, about the safety of the country.

    And after some back-and-forth with agency lawyers for what seemed to him the umpteenth time, he writes, Rodriguez scrutinized a cable to the field drafted by his chief of staff, ordering that the tapes be shredded in an industrial-strength machine. The tapes had already been reviewed, and copious written notes on their content had been taken.

    “I was not depriving anyone of information about what was done or what was said,” he writes. “I was just getting rid of some ugly visuals that could put the lives of my people at risk.

    “I took a deep breath of weary satisfaction and hit Send.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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