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Suskind: WH Efforts To Pin Full Blame On Rodriguez For Destruction Of Tapes ‘Hard To Believe’

By Faiz Shakir  

"Suskind: WH Efforts To Pin Full Blame On Rodriguez For Destruction Of Tapes ‘Hard To Believe’"

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Since the New York Times and other media outlets revealed Thursday evening that at least two CIA tapes documenting harsh interrogation of detainees were destroyed in 2005, Bush administration officials have been claiming complete ignorance.

White House counsel Harriet Miers knew of CIA’s plans but told them not to do it:

ABC News has learned that at least one White House official knew about the CIA’s planned destruction of videotapes in 2005 that documented the interrogation of two al Qaeda operatives: then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. Three officials told ABC News Miers urged the CIA not to destroy the tapes.

President Bush didn’t know:

[Bush] has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday.

Vice President Cheney was in the dark as well:

The vice president learned about the tapes and their destruction at the same time [as Bush], another administration official told CNN.

CIA Director Porter Goss wasn’t informed:

Mr. Goss became C.I.A. director in 2004 and was serving in the post when the tapes were destroyed, but was not informed in advance about Mr. Rodriguez’s decision, the former officials said.

CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo also didn’t know:

The chief of the agency’s clandestine service nevertheless ordered their destruction in November 2005, taking the step without notifying even the C.I.A.’s own top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, who was angry at the decision, the officials said.

The full blame for the destruction of the tapes has fallen on Jose Rodriguez, then the CIA’s head of the clandestine division. Rodriguez reportedly undertook the destruction of the tapes in a unilateral manner, without receiving any instructions from his bosses or giving them advance notice of his actions.

Last night on CNN, Ron Suskind — author of the One Percent Doctrine — said the idea that Rodriquez didn’t get “some authorization from above” is “hard to believe.” “It simply doesn’t work that way,” Suskind said, noting that “at this point, lots was being authorized from the White House in terms of the CIA.” Watch it:

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman wrote that in State of War, the NYT’s James Risen reported “an effort by senior officials ‘to insulate Bush and give him deniability‘ on torture.” Kevin Drum recounts a conversation between George Tenet and President Bush that was reported in the One Percent Doctrine. “You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” “No sir, Mr. President,” Tenet replied.

UPDATE II: Marcy Wheeler documents the responses from Congressional members as to what they knew and when they knew it. She notes the ostensible silence of former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), who is running for reelection next year.

Transcript:

SUSKIND: Right now, what people are calling for is an investigation as to who knew what when. Now, if this was handled within the CIA, as Mike Hayden has said, well, then there’s somebody in the CIA that acted unilaterally. If that was the case — and I think that would be a surprise — then that person certainly will be drawn in front of the hot lights.

BLITZER: Because they say that this was a decision made by the guy who was in charge of clandestine operations…

SUSKIND: Yes, Jose Rodriguez.

BLITZER: And he made it on his own. But let’s get some context now, because the tape was actually made back in 2002. It was destroyed in 2005. What was going on in 2005 that, for some, might raise some alarm bells?

SUSKIND: Well, it’s the end of the Tenet year. It’s the beginning of the Goss year. Remember, Porter Goss is brought in.

BLITZER: George Tenet was the CIA director. Porter Goss, a former member of Congress.

SUSKIND: That’s right.

BLITZER: Was brought in as the new CIA director.

SUSKIND: And the view, Wolf, was that he would bring the CIA into line, that they were a renegade agency. And mostly the vice president, and the president, said, we want these guys to march to lockstep. That was the period in which these tapes were destroyed.

Now, Goss, I think has said publicly he was outraged by this. But, ultimately, a director of operations at CIA is not going to do something like this — so dramatic — destroying evidence that, clearly, people want — including the 9/11 Commission — without some authorization from above. It simply doesn’t work that way.

BLITZER: So, based on what you know about Washington and these kind of situations, I assume there’s going to be a full scale investigation and people are going to want to drag some of these guys before Congress.

SUSKIND: Well, it’s interesting. You know, the administration, up to this point, might have subverted the intent of certain laws. But they tend to not have crossed the line in terms of an actionable investigation or prosecution. This may be the case in which that line that was crossed. And the question, again, everyone is asking is who authorized this, at what level?

Frankly, at this point, lots was being authorized from the White House in terms of the CIA. And it’s hard to believe that Jose Rodriguez, an upper middle level — I mean he’s a top guy — would have acted unilaterally to destroy evidence that clearly people wanted.

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