No Comment — April 16, 2010, 11:26 am

Destruction of CIA Tapes: Did Goss Approve?

Former CIA operative turned novelist Barry Eisler is fond of pointing out the well-honed tactics developed by the CIA for dealing with bad news. As he notes in his forthcoming novel, Inside Out (scheduled for release next month), the story of the destruction of the CIA tapes of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques furnishes a great example. At first, it was reported that two tapes had gone missing. The story grabbed Washington’s attention, drew print media headlines, and raised such a storm that Bush’s last attorney general was forced to appoint a special prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate the matter. But then it became clear that there were “several” tapes, not just two. And a few months later, when few were still tracking the matter, it became known that the number was ninety-two. One or two tapes might be destroyed inadvertently, of course, but ninety-two? That was the product of a conscious decision, which likely involved a number of people.

When the story first broke, there was an effort to pin it on a “rogue operator,” a senior clandestine service figure named Jose Rodriguez. Now the AP reports that this effort has collapsed:

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 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 tapes were relevant to and requested in a number of legal proceedings, and their destruction therefore amounted to the suppression of vital evidence. That could be a serious crime. Prosecutor Durham is still looking into the matter, two years later, and there is no sign that he intends to walk away from it any time soon. But these disclosures suggest that the decision was taken with the approval of the highest level at the CIA, and it’s still too early to rule out approvals at still higher levels.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today