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ProSense Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-12-07 10:49 AM
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Disentangling Torture TapeGate
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Edited on Wed Dec-12-07 10:50 AM by ProSense

Disentangling Torture TapeGate

By Larry Johnson on December 10, 2007 at 10:16 PM in Current Affairs

After querying former intelligence officers and reviewing the letter from the U.S. Attorneys in Richmond, Virginia, I can clarify some issues surrounding whats what with respect to the question of the destruction of interrogation tapes and speculate on others.

The bottom line is: Jose Rodriguez, the recently retired Deputy Director of Operations, has been fingered as acting unilaterally, but that is not true. He did check with both the IG and the DOs assigned Assistant General Counsel before destroying the DOs copies of the tapes. Although Jose is a lawyer, he made the mistake of trusting fellow lawyers, and now is likely to get chopped up in the political meat grinder while trying to clear his name and reputation. (UPDATE: See todays NY Times piece by Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti confirming Jose got a legal opinion before destroying the tapes.)

Why destroy the tapes? It appears that the June 2005 decision of the Italian judge to issue arrest warrants for C.I.A. officers and contractors involved in the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in 2003 may have been the precipitating incident convincing Jose Rodriguez that Agency must destroy video tapes of terrorist interrogations. That operation was conducted with the full knowledge and approval of the Italians. If the Italians could flip on us that meant anyone could.

Lets follow the timeline:

March 2002Abu Zubaydah is captured in Pakistan. George Bush is briefed regularly by George Tenet on the details of Zubaydahs interrogation (see p. 22, State of War by James Risen). Cofer Black is in charge of the CIAs Counterterrorism Center and oversees the CIAs hunt for the terrorists. Zubaydah is interrogated in Thailand, where the sessions were filmed. He was waterboarded sometime in the May-June 2002 time frame. Enhanced interrogation methods were used and approval for them came from Jim Pavitt (see p. 21 of ABC News interview of former CIA case officer, John Kiriakou). Pavitt was the DDO (i.e., Deputy Director of Operations). Stephen Kappes, who currently serves as the Deputy Director of the CIA, was named Assistant Deputy Director of Operations in June 2002. Ron Suskind confirms Risens report that the President and his National Security team were regularly briefed on the results of Zubaydahs torture sessions (see The One Percent Doctrine, pp. 111-115).

What we know for certain is that the CIA was keeping the President and his National Security team fully briefed on the methods and results of interrogating Abu Zubaydah. In fact, it is highly likely that George Tenet showed part of the videotape of the interrogation to the President.

November-December 2002Cofer Black leaves the C.I.A. and is sworn in as the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the Department of State. Jose A. Rodriguez takes over the helm of the C.I.A.s Counterterrorism Center.

9 May 2003C.I.A. declares in sworn statement to Judge Leonie Brinkema that it was not recording interrogations of terrorist suspects in any format (see p. 4 of letter to Federal Judges by U.S. attorneys Novak and Raskin).

June 2004George Tenet resigns as Director of the C.I.A. James Pavitt retires. Stephen Kappes replaces Pavitt as DDO.

September 2004Porter Goss sworn in as Director of the C.I.A.

November 2004Stephen Kappes resigns from the C.I.A. in a dispute with Porter Goss and the his aides. Jose Rodriguez takes over as the DDO.

late June 2005 An Italian judge issued arrest warrants for 13 U.S. CIA agents accused of kidnapping imam Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Italy in 2003, and sending him to Egypt for questioning regarding possible terrorist activities.

14 November 2005In response to an order of the U.S. District Court for the C.I.A. to confirm or deny that it has video or audio tapes of interrogations of C.I.A. subjects, the C.I.A. the U.S. Government does not have any video or audio tapes of the interrogations of (two terrorist suspects whose names are blacked out) (see p. 4 of U.S. Attorney letter).

June 2006Michael Hayden takes over as Director of the C.I.A. and Stephen Kappes returns as the Deputy Director of the C.I.A.

13 September 2007C.I.A. notifies the U.S. Attorneys in Richmond, Virginia that it had discovered the videotape of the interrogation of terrorists whose names are blacked out in the declassified letter (see. p. 2 of the letter).

19 September 2007The U.S. Attorneys view the video tape. Attorneys direct the C.I.A. to search its files again for relevant material.

18 October 2007C.I.A. provides the U.S. Attorneys with an additional video tape and an audio tape of an interrogation. The U.S. Attorneys compare the video tapes with the operational cables (i.e., written reports) reporting the results of the interrogations. They determined that the reports accurately reported what was viewed on the video tape.

This is an important pointthe substance of what transpired during those interrogations was given to the Moussaoui defense team.

So. Who did what?

Jose Rodriguez has the advantage of being a lawyer. I am fairly certain that he can document who he talked to and the guidance he received before taking the step of destroying the tapes. Another thing that might save him a bit is that he and Congressman Reyes are buddies, which is what Congressman Reyes may have meant when he told the NYT today that he (Reyes) was not looking for scapegoats.

This isnt the first time that Jose has had his tit in a ringer. During Iran-Contra, he and another C.I.A. officer were summoned to DC for questioning by the FBI. He could prove that he had asked for, and never received, DCI confirmation through cable command channels that Ollie Norths orders were legit, and thus diplomatically told Felix Rodriguez to pound sand. However, when it was thought that he was going to be called to testify on the Hill, the DCIs office told him that, despite what the regulations said, OGC would not provide him legal support for acting within his authority and the law. Then C.I.A. Director told Jose thru a friend that Iran-Contra was political, get your own lawyer.


Michael Isikoff andMark Hosenball

Paper Trail

Who authorized the CIA to destroy interrogation videos?

Dec 11, 2007 | Updated: 4:11 p.m. ET Dec 11, 2007

The CIA repeatedly asked White House lawyer Harriet Miers over a two-year period for instructions regarding what to do with "very clinical" videotapes depicting the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques on two top Al Qaeda captives, according to former and current intelligence officials familiar with the communications (who requested anonymity when discussing the controversial issue). The tapes are believed to have included evidence of waterboarding and other interrogation methods that Bush administration critics have described as torture.


A detailed written transcript of the tapes' contentsapparently including references to interrogation techniqueswas subsequently made by the CIA. But the tapes themselves were never brought onto U.S. territory; they were kept, and later destroyed, at a secret location overseas. At one point portions of the tapes were electronically transmitted to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., so a small number of officials there could review them. A counterterrorism source, who also asked for anonymity when discussing this subject, said that there was no reason to believe that any recordings of such an electronic feed still exist.

In 2003, according to the former and current officials, senior officers of the National Clandestine Service, the CIA division that conducts undercover espionage operations overseas, began expressing concern to CIA lawyers and management about what should be done with the tapes. As a result of these concerns, discussions were held between top Clandestine Service executives and the most senior CIA managers about the tapes' future. Initially, according to a former official, the most senior CIA official involved in the discussions was agency director George Tenet. When Tenet left the agency in 2004 and was replaced as chief by former House Intelligence Committee chairman Porter Goss, the Clandestine Service officers then raised the issue of what to do about the tapes with Goss.


The reason CIA officials involved the White House and Justice Department in discussions about the disposition of the tapes was that CIA officials viewed the CIA's terrorist interrogation and detention programincluding the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniquesas having been imposed on the agency by the White House. "It was a political issue," said the former official, and therefore CIA officials believed that the decision as to what to do with the tapes should be made at a political level, by Miersa former personal lawyer to President Bush and later White House staff secretary and counselor someone else directly representing the president.

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