UPDATE: “The Heat from Destroying [The Torture Videos] is Nothing Compared to what it Would be if the Tapes Ever Got into the Public Domain” Plus, I Need that Promotion!!
UPDATE 27 March 2013. This morning the Washington Post reports that the as yet unnamed woman who “signed off on the 2005 decision to destroy video tapes of prisoners being subjected to treatment critics have called torture” has become acting chief of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, responsible for launching drone strikes and running spies overseas. The unnamed woman is described by the Post as “in her 50s” and a “home run from a diversity standpoint.” She has served “multiple tours in Moscow” and has held “top positions in London and New York.”
The Post also reports that the new acting director of the Clandestine Service and its former director Jose Rodriguez repeatedly sought permission to destroy the torture tapes, but were denied permission.
The two sent instructions to destroy the tapes anyway, infamously (and sadly, perhaps correctly) noting: “The heat from destroying [the torture videos] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.” The order carried only two names: Rodriguez and the new acting director of the Clandestine Service.
The careers of both appear to be thriving. Rodriguez has published a widely promoted book justifying the agency’s actions. And said in an interview with 60 minutes, “We needed to get everybody in government to put their big boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed.”
For more ruminations on the link between destroying documents and being held accountable for torture, see here.
UPDATE 10 November 2010: Federal prosecutor John Durham will not charge former CIA Director of Clandestine Service, Jose Rodriguez for authorizing the destruction of videotapes that recorded torture. The statute of limitations for the destruction of tapes expired this week. Durham may still bring charges against CIA agents and contractors who allegedly participated in the torture of detainees in secret “black sites.” Rodriguez’s attorney lauded the decision, stating, “Jose Rodriguez is an American hero, a true patriot who only wanted to protect his people and his country.”
In 2002 an alleged Al-Qaeda member Abu Zabaydah was transferred to a “black prison” in Thailand. There, the CIA waterboarded him 83 times in one month, kept him naked in his cell, subjected him to extreme cold, deprived him from sleep for days, and forced him to listen to extremely loud music. On 9 November 2005 the 92 videos of this “enhanced interrogation” were destroyed. One email shows that Jose Rodriguez Jr., the CIA’s Director of Clandestine Service justified the destruction by saying, “the heat from destroying [the torture videos] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.”
Today’s Documents –obtained by the ACLU on 15 April 2010– also show that the methods used on Zabaydah went even beyond those approved in the expansive Yoo and Bybee Torture Memos. In April 2002, “due to a misunderstanding” Zabaydah was subjected to more than the approved 48 hours of sleep deprivation. Additionally, “the disparity in numbers” and the “method of water application” used on Zabaydah was also “at odds with the Bybee opinion.”
Despite 2004 instructions from Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Counsel David Addington not to destroy the tapes, a request for their destruction was made on 5 November 2005. This request (whose author is still unknown) dubiously cited the support of CIA lawyers for the destruction of the videos.
Five days later, Rodriguez sent a memo approving the destruction of the tapes. The memo repeated the dubious claim that, “no legal or OIG requirement to continue to retain the tapes” existed. The 92 tapes were destroyed on 9 November 2008 from 910 AM to 1230 PM.
The request to destroy the tapes was made just days after the Washington Post revealed that the CIA was using covert “black site” prisons to detain prisoners in the War on Terror. Including one in Thailand. Coincidence?
Two emails (their author is also unknown) shed the most light about the reasons for the destruction of the videos. The first email, written to CIA Executive Director Dusty Foggo (who was eventually convicted of committing bribery in the Duke Cunningham scandal), explained that if the tapes went public they “would make us [the CIA] look terrible.” Therefore, the email recounted, Rodriguez, preferred to take the lesser heat of destroying evidence than the greater heat of possibly being exposed as a torturer. CIA Director Porter Goss (apparently not too concerned) joked that he might actually be the one who took the heat.
The second email is more damning. First, it stated that the memo requesting to destroy the tapes either “lied” about or “misstated” the Inspector General’s permission to destroy the documents. Second, it reveals that those who wanted the videos to be destroyed were active in Zabaydah’s “interrogation.” Here’s million dollar sentence: “It is not without relevance that [redacted] figured prominently in the tapes, as [redacted] was in charge of [redacted] at the time and clearly would want the tapes destroyed.”
That’s right, a CIA agent may have tortured a prisoner, and then fibbed in a memo asking that the tapes of him possibly committing this torture be destroyed. And his request to destroy the evidence was approved by Jose Rodriguez.
So will those complicit in tapes’ destruction “avoid the heat?”
We’ll see. The Washington Post recently reported that Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Durham’s two-year investigation of the tape’s destruction is winding down; he may soon announce incitements. Jose Rodriguez has refused to testify. Guess he can’t take the heat.
Sadly, yes they have.