CIA Hero Destroyed Those Documents
C.I.A. Official in Inquiry Called a ‘Hero’
By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 — At a conference in El Paso in mid-August,
Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the Democratic chairman of the
House Intelligence Committee, heaped praise on a man whose exploits, he
joked, had been the inspiration for the television show “24.”
From fast cars to fine wines, Mr. Reyes said, the appetites of the
man, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., are the stuff of legend. Then turning
serious, Mr. Reyes hailed Mr. Rodriguez’s three decades of undercover
work for the Central Intelligence Agency, where he recently stepped
down as head of its clandestine service, and called Mr. Rodriguez an
Four months later, Mr. Rodriguez’s role in the destruction of
hundreds of hours of videotape of harsh interrogations of two
operatives of Al Qaeda is at the center of an inquiry by Mr. Reyes’s
committee on Capitol Hill. With a separate Justice Department inquiry
that could lead to a full criminal investigation into the matter, the
man who spent a career in the shadows has been thrust uneasily into the
Mr. Rodriguez is hardly the only current or former agency official
under scrutiny. In the months ahead, investigators will try to
reconstruct the chain of events leading up to the decision in November
2005 to destroy the interrogation tapes, and to determine who else
inside the agency may have approved the decision.
According to a former top intelligence official who has spoken to
Mr. Rodriguez in recent days, Mr. Rodriguez remains confident that he
acted lawfully and had the authority to destroy the tapes. He could not
be reached for comment.
[Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.]
Whether C.I.A. lawyers in fact approved the destruction will be a
question for investigators in Congress, the Justice Department, and the
C.I.A. inspector general’s office. Some Congressional officials said
that they want to know why Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director at the
time the tapes were destroyed, appears never to have notified
Congressional committees about the destruction.
Mr. Rodriguez, who was born in Puerto Rico, spent much of his C.I.A.
career working in Latin America, including in Mexico, and ascended in
the 1990s to lead the agency’s Latin America division.
He is regarded both by admirers and detractors as blunt, effusive
and fiercely loyal to his staff and friends. In 1997 he was removed
from his position after he interceded on behalf of a friend who was
arrested in the Dominican Republic, trying to get the Dominican
government to drop the charges. A report by the C.I.A.’s inspector
general criticized Mr. Rodriguez for a “remarkable lack of judgment.”
Despite the reprimand, Mr. Rodriguez continued to ascend through the
agency. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he was appointed chief of
staff of the Counterterrorist Center, which nearly overnight had
ballooned to a staff of nearly 1,700 from 400.
Some at the agency were surprised when soon afterward Mr. Rodriguez
was tapped to take over the counterterrorist center. Many at the C.I.A.
said they believed that Mr. Rodriguez, who had no experience in the
Middle East nor Arabic language skills, was a poor choice at a time
when the agency’s biggest task was dismantling Al Qaeda’s worldwide
But he won praise while in the job for an aggressive strategy to
capture, detain and interrogate leaders of Al Qaeda, a program that
since 2004 has come under intense Congressional and legal scrutiny.
New details emerged Sunday about when members of Congress were first
told specifics about the program. The Washington Post reported that top
lawmakers had raised no objections during a September 2002 briefing
about some of the techniques C.I.A. operatives were using to get
information from Al Qaeda detainees — including waterboarding, a
procedure that causes a feeling of suffocation and drowning.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among the lawmakers who attended the
briefing, issued a statement on Sunday saying that she eventually did
protest the techniques and that she concurred with objections raised by
a Democratic colleague in a letter to the C.I.A. in early 2003.
Soon after Mr. Goss became C.I.A. director in 2004, Mr. Rodriguez
was put in charge of the Directorate of Operations, the agency’s covert
branch that was renamed the National Clandestine Service in 2005.
After he announced his retirement from the C.I.A., he was asked to
take over the National Counterterrorist Center after the departure of
retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd. He turned down the position.
Representative Reyes declined a request on Sunday for an interview
about Mr. Rodriguez, but issued a statement saying his committee is
planning not just to examine the circumstances of the destruction of
the videotapes, but to conduct a “broad review” of the C.I.A.’s
detention and interrogation program.
“I’m not looking for scapegoats,” his statement said.
Oddly enough, I believe Representative Reyes when he says “I’m not
looking for scapegoats.” He’s aiming for the total destruction of
America’s clandestine services. The democrats want to eliminate all the
hard tools (military and Intelligence, with diplomacy being “soft”) of
America’s foreign policy repertoire. If a democrat becomes president
and they retain control of the House and Senate they will enact changes
that will make the Church Committee’s damage to America’s intelligence
apparatus look like peanuts and they will completely decimate the
During all of this, however, a man who has dedicated his life to
serving his country will be dragged through the mud. There’s no doubt
in my mind that he had mine and your best interests at heart but he is
going to be dragged through the mud and will be treated worse then a
common criminal. All because he destroyed some documents. Documents
that Representative Reyes and his ilk would have doubtlessly used to
destroy this man’s life.
Before I go, I have to take one last shot at Representative Reyes.
He is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; you know this
because you read the article. But he is also the person who, as said
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had no clue which Islamic
sect makes up al Qaeda or Hezbollah. But I’m sure he is just the person who should determine the future of America’s clandestine services. BigT