Destruction of videotapes documented in CIA e-mail


By MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN Associated Press Writers


April 16, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) – Internal CIA e-mails show the former agency head,
Porter Goss, agreed with a top aide’s 2005 decision to destroy
videotapes of the harsh interrogation of a terror suspect, a
controversial action that remains the focus of an FBI investigation.

The documents show that, despite Goss’ apparent agreement, CIA
officials almost immediately began worrying they’d done something
wrong. The e-mails also indicate that President George W. Bush’s White
House counsel, Harriet Miers, hadn’t been informed of the tapes’
destruction and was "livid" to find out later.

The videos showed CIA interrogators using waterboarding, a simulated
drowning technique that’s widely considered torture, on terrorism
suspect Abu Zubaydah. The videos showed that interrogators did not
follow the waterboarding procedures authorized by the Bush
administration, the documents indicate.

Jose Rodriguez, the agency’s top clandestine officer, worried the 92
tapes would be "devastating" to the CIA if they ever surfaced, the
documents show. He approved the destruction of the tapes.

Rodriguez told Goss and others he "felt it was extremely important to
destroy the tapes and that if there was any heat, he would take it,"
according to a November 2005 e-mail.

Goss, according to the e-mail, laughed and said he’d be the one to take the heat.

The e-mail then states: "PG, however, agreed with the decision."

The author’s name is blacked out. The e-mail amounts to an
after-the-fact summary and does not prove that Goss approved destroying
the tapes. Current and former intelligence officials have said he did
not, and was angry to find out about it.

Rodriguez’s lawyer has disputed that and Goss has not discussed the matter publicly.

The e-mails, released late Thursday by the Justice Department under a
Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties
Union, showed that Bush’s top lawyer, Miers, and her CIA counterpart,
John Rizzo, didn’t find out the tapes were destroyed until two days
later and were both angry.

"Rizzo is clearly upset because he was on the hook to notify Harriet
Miers of the status of the tapes because it was she who had asked to be
advised before any action was taken," reads a November 2005 e-mail from
an unidentified CIA officer to the agency’s No. 3 official, Kyle
"Dusty" Foggo. "Apparently, Rizzo called Harriet this afternoon and she
was livid."

Miers’ predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s
chief of staff, David Addington, had told CIA lawyers in 2004 not to
destroy the tapes.

A year later, Rodriguez sent a memo approving the destruction, saying the agency had no legal requirement to keep the tapes.

It’s unclear who told Rodriguez that, but a subsequent e-mail suggest
that either someone lied to Rodriguez or that Rodriguez lied about
having received approval.

The e-mail correctly predicts: "Rizzo does not think this is likely to just go away."

Years later, prosecutor John Durham is still investigating whether any crime was committed.

"These documents provide further evidence that senior CIA officials
were willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in
order to avoid being prosecuted for torture," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner
said. "If the Department of Justice fails to hold these officials
accountable, they will have succeeded in their cover-up."

CIA spokesman George Little said the agency continues to cooperate with that investigation.

"We hope that this issue is resolved soon," Little said.

The tapes were destroyed in Thailand. The agency’s former top officer
there has not responded to repeated messages seeking comment.

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