WASHINGTON (AP) — Countering opposition to President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next CIA director, the agency on Friday gave lawmakers a memo showing she was cleared years ago of wrongdoing in the destruction of videotapes showing terror suspects being waterboarded.
Gina Haspel is facing pushback from some Democrats and liberal groups concerned about her role in the shredding of 92 tapes in 2005 and her overall role in the agency’s now-defunct harsh interrogation program, which was created after 9/11.
The Associated Press obtained the eight-page, declassified memo, which summarizes a disciplinary review conducted by former acting CIA director Mike Morell. In the memo, Morell said he “found no fault” with Haspel and said she “acted appropriately.”
Morell, who supports Haspel’s nomination to be the next — and first female — director of the agency, said she drafted a cable ordering the tapes destroyed, but it was her boss, Jose Rodriguez, who issued it.
“Ms. Haspel did not destroy the tapes, she did not oversee the destruction of the tapes and she did not order the destruction of the tapes,” Morell said in a separate statement issued Friday. “She drafted a cable, under instruction from her boss, Mr. Rodriguez, that he sent — under his name and authority — ordering that the tapes be destroyed. Mr. Rodriguez ordered the destruction of the tapes, not Ms. Haspel.”
The CIA’s disciplinary review followed a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.
Morell said in his memo that Rodriguez was the person who should be held accountable and he wrote him a letter of reprimand. He said Rodriguez knew that two White House lawyers, the ranking member of the House intelligence committee and top intelligence officials either opposed or had reservations about destroying the tapes. Morell also noted that the CIA’s failure to notify Congress about the destruction until two years afterward was a “serious issue,” though he didn’t blame Rodriguez for that.
In his defense, Rodriguez said in a statement he posted online that no one ever ordered him not to destroy the tapes. He said his signature on the letter of reprimand indicated that he had read it, not that he agreed with it. “I was under the impression that the chain of command did not think it was illegal to destroy the tapes, but that no one wanted to make the decision at the time,” he said.
Rodriguez said he wanted the tapes destroyed to protect the identities of CIA personnel whose faces could be seen on the tapes. He said he worried that al-Qaida would retaliate against them and their families. “The enhanced interrogation program was a legally authorized program and our government had the responsibility to protect the CIA officers who courageously came forward to participate in it. I did what no one else in government was willing to risk doing. I have no regrets.”