Not only did operations chief Jose Rodriguez order the CIA's torture tapes destroyed without authority from top CIA officials, but he then kept it quiet from Congress. That, at least, is the story that CIA's acting general counsel John Rizzo told the House intelligence committee yesterday, according to the AP
Most of Rizzo's account doesn't really contradict what we know from prior media reports
. From 2003 through 2005, White House and Justice Department lawyers (with a couple key exceptions) and top CIA officials all advised that the tapes should not be destroyed. But nobody gave an order to that effect. So when the issue arose again in November, 2005 after The Washington Post
broke the CIA black sites story, Rodriguez asked again. Two CIA lawyers found that the agency had no obligation to preserve them.
But Rizzo, who's been acting general counsel since 2004, says that even after that, he advised against destroying them. And he told the committee that then-CIA Director Porter Goss "also recommended" the same. Rodriguez went ahead and ordered the tapes destroyed anyway.
Here's how "a congressional official," who's seen the some 300 pages of documentation that the CIA has so far turned over, described it to the AP:
"If you look at the documents, you get very close to a direct order (not to destroy the tapes) without it being, 'Jose, you're not going to do this,'" the official said....
The...official said the committee will try to determine whether any CIA officials suggested "with a wink and a nod" that the tapes should be destroyed, and whether Rodriguez was being forced to take the blame.
And remember that The Washington Post reported
yesterday that "Rodriguez was neither penalized nor reprimanded, publicly or privately" after he ordered the tapes destroyed. Update
: Now Rodriguez's lawyer is reiterating this
-- and saying that Goss never objected before
he ordered the tapes, either.
That's not all that Rizzo pinned on Rodriguez.
He also says that Rodriguez had been tasked with informing leaders of the intelligence committees in Congress that the tapes had been destroyed. That, of course, never happened.
Yesterday Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said that they're still mulling whether to offer Rodriguez immunity to spill his guts to the committee. The more all fingers point to Rodriguez, the less likely that gets.