If those tapes were still in existence, what do you suppose are the chances they would now be in the public domain? Somewhere between probably and slam-dunk. But that is now, and this was then. Any minimally competent attorney would instinctively react the same way if his client were to come to him seeking the go-ahead to destroy sensitive materials in his possession, even if the client was not under any cloud of suspicion or investigation.
Someone does something like that when he has something to hide. And the tapes, obviously, were not ordinary material. Indeed, only a month earlier, in September , the bipartisan leadership of Congress the so-called Gang of 8 had been briefed by the CIA on the newly approved techniques, including waterboarding, and expressed no concern whatsoever. But to have this disturbing stuff captured on videotape, and then to destroy it without telling anyone.
I mean, Jesus. I trusted Jose and believed his assurances that everything on the tapes was within the approved guidelines, but once they were gone, and once someone on the outside inevitably found out about the tapes and what had happened to them, who was going to accept those assurances at face value? So that was the big turd dumped on my desk shortly before the arrival of the new general counsel. Not then, and not until further notice. I needed to talk about this with the new general counsel.
Poor Scott Muller, I thought. Here he was coming in from private life, with a totally blank slate, and now I had to firehose him not only on a counterterrorist program of an unprecedented scope and nature, but also, by the way, on an urgent request to destroy hair-raising evidence about the program. Thankfully, Scott proved to be a quick study and not easily rattled. He agreed that precipitously destroying the tapes was a terrible idea. At the same time, after hearing out Jose and Jim Pavitt, he came to the same conclusion I had: These were honorable men whose deep concerns about the security risks the tapes posed to the interrogators were genuine.
Absent some legal requirement that the tapes had to be preserved forever, Scott and I were not prepared to simply rule out ever destroying them. He was someone I knew to be disciplined, thorough, and unflappable. John had had no prior role, or even any knowledge of, the interrogation program, but we thought it made sense to bring him into the loop, given the certainty that the program would be implicated in prosecutions of captured Al Qaeda terrorists in the years to come. In the days after Christmas , John traveled to the country where Zubaydah had been held and where the sole set of tapes in existence was under zealous guard in the local CIA office.
By this time, Zubaydah had been moved to a new detention facility in another part of the world. But the last thing we needed was to have the damn things get somehow lost or damaged in transit. Ninety-six of the videotapes were recordings of the Zubaydah sessions. He was captured in October and taped only briefly before the CTC halted all videotaping.
Much of the ninety-six tapes depicted Zubaydah simply being questioned or sitting alone in his cell, so John skimmed those parts. But he painstakingly watched the segments where EITs were being applied. He compared everything that the interrogators said and did, and everything Zubaydah said and did, with the daily reports the interrogators sent back to CIA Headquarters. He particularly focused on the waterboarding sessions.
After three days, John was done. His conclusions, contained in a written report, boiled down to this: The reports were accurate and complete, and the interrogators had done nothing to Zubaydah that was outside the guidelines or not described in the reports. Were the faces of the interrogators visible?
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And what about Zubaydah, when he was being waterboarded? Some crying. Some gagging. Just very unpleasant to look at. By comparison, the next item on our to-do list was easy: telling Congress about the existence of the tapes and why the Agency intended to destroy them as soon as feasible. Their reactions, as Scott later reported to me, were typical of those of congressional leaders in any dicey, sensitive briefing I had ever participated in or heard about in my years at the CIA.
In fairness, I should note that shortly thereafter Jane Harman did send a letter to the CIA expressing concern about the wisdom of destroying the tapes.
Otherwise, none of the leaders ever followed up about the issue until the story leaked to the media almost five years later. Far from it. In , several internal and external investigations were under way in which the tapes were potentially relevant, and we had to see how each would play out. Early that year, CIA inspector general John Helgerson began a review of the still-unfolding interrogation program.
We told Helgerson about the tapes, and he wanted his people to look at them. The tension between the two offices within the CIA was palpable. But I had developed great respect for him over the years as professional and fair-minded. In its report on the interrogation program issued in May , the Office of the Inspector General OIG made a number of references to the tapes.
None of the four leaders would ever ask to look at the tapes. None of them ever inquired about their status, even though the CIA had put them on notice more than a year earlier that the Agency intended to destroy the tapes at some point.
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None of them ever asked anything about the tapes. Not, that is, until the shit hit the fan years later, courtesy of the New York Times. Its charter was markedly different from the OIG review: It was conducting a comprehensive postmortem on the events, and the U. The commission staff, led by a very aggressive former federal prosecutor named Dieter Snell, pressed the Agency hard for access to the detainees so they could pose their own questions to them. The foreign government hosts, in allowing the CIA to build its detention facility, insisted that only CIA personnel could have access to it; they themselves stayed away.
Second, our psychologists and analysts studying the detainees argued against introducing any new interlocutors on the scene beyond the handful already there. They feared that diabolical but cagey manipulators like Zubaydah and KSM would seize the opportunity to posture, prevaricate, and rupture the flow of the ongoing interrogations. For months, the commission also bombarded the Agency with a relentless volley of requests for thousands of documents, and the CIA provided mostly all of them.
We scoured all of the requests, provided in writing and in specific detail by the commission staff. They knew exactly what they wanted, and they took pains to spell it out. They never asked us if we had any videotapes of the detainees. If they had, we would have told them the truth.
Both times the commission backed down. They were consistently fair and trustworthy in their dealings with the Agency. Big mistake, as things turned out. Moussaoui, who proved to be as unhinged as Zubaydah but nowhere near as capable, had managed to draw attention to himself by seeking lessons in Texas and Minnesota flight training schools and by loudly insisting on instructions on how to fly a , but not how to take off or land one.
For two years, he had been sitting in jail awaiting trial for his role in the conspiracy, and the case was now beginning in federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia. And so, with all these investigative balls in the air, as turned to , it fell to me to tell Jose and his people that any decision to destroy the tapes would have to wait. Looking back at that period now, however, I clearly misjudged the depth of angst and impatience. And it was only going to get worse in the months to follow. But that was no longer the only roadblock to destroying the tapes.
Jim Pavitt and Scott Muller also left the Agency about the same time. About a month before he left, Scott got the White House into the act. The photographs sparked a national outrage, and the White House was in major political damage-control mode. When the scheduled June meeting took place, I had a scheduling conflict, so Scott took with him Bob Eatinger, our senior lawyer for counterterrorism matters. As far as I know, no one in the White House at that time had been told about the existence of the tapes.
It was not a matter of hiding them. Instead, our thinking at the CIA was that the time was not yet ripe: The tapes were being safeguarded thousands of miles away, their destruction was on indefinite hold, and there was nothing we were asking the White House to do. Abu Ghraib changed that calculation, even though that debacle had little to do with the CIA. Not as long as I had anything to say about it. Then, a few weeks later, he resigned. I was acting general counsel.
Porter Goss was confirmed as the new CIA director in the fall of A longtime congressman from Florida, he gave up a seat in a safe district to take the DCI job. In our first meeting I went through a list of matters that I thought he would need to focus on soon. Porter, unlike his predecessor, is not a very demonstrative man, but when I mentioned the tapes he clearly seemed taken aback. Porter seemed mildly disconcerted at hearing this. The hot potato was now on his plate. Between them, they were the staunchest advocates inside the building for destroying the tapes.
They were now in a position to lobby the director directly. Yet I never had any indication they did so. Instead, they continued to come to me, persistently pressing their case. In June , Jose had been upset to learn of the White House objections, and I could tell he was becoming more frustrated as the months went by. The Moussaoui prosecution seemed to be dragging on forever; and in the meantime, another court case was presenting another potential complication. As in the Moussaoui case, the tapes had not yet been implicated in the court proceedings, but the possibility remained that they could be.
Until both cases sorted themselves out, destroying the tapes was out of the question. But even if the court cases somehow went away, I knew that there were powerful voices inside the administration weighing in against destruction. John Negroponte, the highly respected career diplomat appointed the first director of national intelligence DNI in late , was briefed on the tapes by Director Goss in mid Nonetheless, Jose and his chief of staff kept coming to me. On the edges of meetings on other subjects, in the hallways, they would raise the subject almost every week.
And then, when Al Gonzales left his White House counsel position in March to become attorney general, they began lobbying me to revisit the issue with the new White House counsel, Harriet Miers, in the hope that she might not have the same deep reservations about destruction that Gonzales and the other White House lawyers expressed to Scott Muller in June By this time, I had attended two meetings with Porter where CTC representatives, as a part of their regular updates on the interrogation program, made a pitch about their strong desire to destroy the tapes because of the security risks to the officers depicted in them.
Porter would express sympathy about their concerns, which he thought were genuine, but he never took the issue up with me. I arranged to meet with Harriet Miers a week or so later in her White House office. David Addington, who had been present when Scott Muller told Gonzales about the tapes the year before, was in attendance again. Dan Levin, who had replaced John Bellinger as the legal counsel to the national security advisor, also sat in.
I brought along John McPherson. Besides having reviewed the tapes at the end of , John was the CIA lawyer who was responsible for tracking the ongoing court cases where the tapes could be potentially implicated. He gave a brief update on the cases, and I then told the group that our senior operational personnel were continuing to push hard for destruction of the tapes.
I tried to convey fully and fairly the reasons why they felt so strongly about the issue, because I thought our people deserved that. The reaction I got was predictable.
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Addington, a longtime friend who had worked for me at the CIA years earlier, vigorously asserted he was not a man to mince words that he had told Scott Muller a year before that destroying the tapes was a terrible idea and, by God, he still strongly thought so. Levin, a low-key but first-rate lawyer with prior White House and Justice Department experience, said little if anything; he was entirely new to the issue and the expression on his face was somewhere between incredulous and appalled.
Company man - 30 years of controversy and crisis in the cia
Harriet Miers was typically calm and meticulous, taking notes and asking a few follow-up questions. She stopped short of saying that the tapes should never be destroyed, but the message from the White House remained clear: Do not do anything to the tapes before coming back here first. I reported back to Porter as soon as I returned to Langley. To top it off, I confided to them that Porter Goss seemed distinctly unenthusiastic about the idea, too. I offered Jose the following advice: Cool it for a while because the powers that be are simply not on board.
My advice seemed to have an effect. Jose never again approached me on the subject. But then, around the beginning of November , the top two lawyers from my office responsible for covert operations told me that Jose and his senior staff had come to them wanting to revisit the issue.
I am still not entirely certain what, other than the passage of time, prompted his renewed effort. There is news and humor in every chapter. Frankly, I often found myself wondering why the CIA's pre-publication censors signed off on some of it. John Rizzo joined the CIA and as one would expect his professional life was very interesting. His career, spanning 30years, show the interesting world of the CIA and lets everybody peak under the curtain and see what it's really like.
His career is a worthwhile story and deserves to be heard. Fantastic Booktopia service.
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Industry Reviews 'A larger than life character, with great style, nobody worked harder to protect the nation and the men and women of CIA than John Rizzo. More Books in Memoirs See All. The Book of Bitch. In Stock. Before I Forget. Rizzo recalls nobody in the room getting worked up about waterboarding. Rizzo also tells a gripping story, worthy of a scene in a spy movie, about Aldrich Ames, the Soviet mole inside the agency.
One yearns for more such tidbits, and more about them. Rizzo also shies away from substance on many policy matters. None of them is going to give that up. He begins and ends the book with the controversy over enhanced interrogations; the subject wends its way through much of his narrative.