Washington Babylon — December 8, 2007, 2:31 pm

Where is Jose Rodriguez? [CORRECTION]


This story, which originally appeared under the title “Where is Jose Rodriguez? Apparently in business with the brother of top Democrat on Intel Panel,” describes Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service who has been identified as making the decision to destroy videotapes showing the interrogation of two Al Qaeda members, as doing business with a brother of Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

A Reyes staffer has told me that the story “is absolute fiction” and that Rodriguez has never had any discussions about doing business with any member of Reyes’s family. “There’s absolutely no truth to” the story, the staffer said. He said Reyes’s planned a “rigorous inquiry” into the destruction of the videotapes and that, “We are going to follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

I have retraced my steps in reporting the story and it’s clear that what I wrote was wrong. The responsibility is mine alone. I regret the error and apologize for it. That section of the story has been eliminated from this version of the post.

I tend to agree with my colleague Scott Horton that Jose Rodriguez Jr., the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, is being made the scapegoat for the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of two Al Qaeda members. “This looks like he was tossed under a giant bus,” one former intelligence official told me. “How likely is it that he took this decision on his own, especially when he’s not in the videotapes and wouldn’t be affected directly? Not very likely.”

This person said that the fact that the tapes were made in the first place was hugely revealing. “It shows that by 2002, everyone at the agency thought they could be Jack Bauer, that the president thought this sort of thing was fine,” he said. “This is like making a snuff film. It’s incredible that they felt they could put it on tape.”

On the other hand, another former agency official told me he thought Rodriguez could have–and should have–taken the decision on his own. This person said:

When this idea first came up, it generated a heated discussion. The most experienced officers were to the man, against any effort to tape the interrogations. The object of having an intelligence service is to do things secretly. You don’t tape things unless there is a sound operational reason to do so. Jose was right to order the tapes destroyed. They should not have been made. That said, the day they arrived and were viewed by the leadership, they should have been destroyed that day, not two years later. The tapes would have shocked the conscience of the public, and should not have been made. Nothing good would come of it.

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