Destruction of Torture Videotapes Documented in CIA Email

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Associated Press

Destruction of Torture Videotapes Documented in CIA Email

by
Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman

Porter J. Goss, shown in May 2006, joked with Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the former head of the C.I.A.'s clandestine service, after the latter offered to "take the heat" for destroying tapes that documented brutal interrogation of detainees, agency documents show. (Andrew Councill for The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — 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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