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Jose Rodriguez Destroys Key Evidence of CIA Torture Program, then Condemns Senate Report for being “Flawed,” Biased, and Incomplete

April 9, 2014
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is the former head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service  that oversaw the agency's torture program.

Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is the former head of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service that oversaw the agency’s torture program.

Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official in charge of the agency’s defunct torture program, is arguing that it was both effective and authorized, and that the Senate Intelligence Committee report that is highly critical of the program is biased and incorrect. It is, of course, hard to believe Rodriguez’s assertions, much less reconstruct the exact nature of the CIA’s interrogation program, after Rodriguez himself ordered the destruction of key videos documenting it in 2005.

In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Rodriguez strongly condemned the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to declassify portions of a report critical of the CIA’s torture program, writing “[p]eople might think it is wrong for me to condemn a report I haven’t read. But since the report condemns a program I ran, I think I have justification.” Rodriguez is the same man who authorized the destruction of 92 video recordings of Abu Zubaydah being waterboarded 83 times in one month in a black prison site back in 2005. Rodriguez justified the destruction by writing that “the heat from destroying [the torture videos] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.” Unsurprisingly, Rodriquez doesn’t mention destroying key evidence of the torture program in his op-ed, but his history of doing so makes it hard to read his article as anything more than another attempt to whitewash evidence of the agency’s wrongdoing.

"As Jose said, the heat from destroying [the tapes] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes got into the public domain - he said that out of context they would make us look terrible - it would be devastating to us. All in the room agreed."

“As Jose said, the heat from destroying [the tapes] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes got into the public domain – he said that out of context they would make us look terrible – it would be ‘devastating’ to us. All in the room agreed.”

In his op-ed, Rodriguez argues that the torture program was effective, saying, “I know what I saw in real time: a program that provided critical information about the operations and leadership of al-Qaeda.” This assertion is firmly rejected by the Senate report, which accuses the agency of “overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.”

Rodriguez also claims that the program was authorized and “approved at the highest levels of the government, judged legal by the Justice Department and regularly briefed to the leaders of our congressional oversight committees. There was never any effort to mislead the administration or Congress about the program.” The long-awaited Senate report, on the other hand, argues that the CIA concealed “details about the severity of its methods,” and the Washington Post reported that Rodriguez and a colleague “repeatedly sought permission to have the [Zubaydah] tapes destroyed but were denied,” though ultimately destroying them anyway. Rodriguez argues, however, that “[i]t is a travesty that [the CIA’s] efforts at transparency are now branded insufficient and misleading.”

CIA Abu Zubaydah Interrogation Photo.

CIA Abu Zubaydah Interrogation Photo.

Exactly how the declassification process will work for the portions of the Senate report approved for declassification is unclear, though the CIA, in what Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein calls a conflict of interest, “is expected to play a major role in approving material for release.” It’s worth mentioning that the Senate report does not recommend any new punishments or further criminal inquiries into the program, that Jose Rodriguez was never charged for his involvement or destruction of evidence, and that to date, John Kiriakou is the only government official who has faced jail time for his role in the torture program –for exposing it, that is.

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