Ex-CIA Official: Torture Probe Panel Didn't Talk to Key Staff

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 08:17 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The former head of the CIA’s clandestine services has slammed the Senate committee that investigated the torture techniques employed after 9/11 for throwing the agency "under the bus."

Jose Rodriguez Jr. also accused the Senate Intelligence Committee of failing to interview key figures in the CIA's enhanced "rendition, detention and interrogation" program of al-Qaida terrorists during the George W. Bush administration, The Washington Times reported.

"It is astonishing nobody ever reached out to us to interview us, especially those people who were directors and program managers during that period of time," Rodriguez told the Times.

After signing a non-disclosure agreement, Rodriquez was granted access to the $40 million report from the committee, which is headed by Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

"The truth is they had their foregone conclusions with what they wanted to say in this report, and they did not want the facts to get into the way," said Rodriguez, who ran the program consisting of sleep deprivation, waterboarding, uncomfortable positioning, and other measures to gain information about past and planned terror activities.

"The process has been political," he said. "It has been ideological. And it is just wrong."

The 6,800-page report included a 500-page summary, which has been redacted in parts temporarily by the CIA so the agency can ensure that no information endangering national security is inadvertently exposed. The agency reportedly plans to decide by Friday what blacked-out information should remain hidden before the report is finally released to the public.

U.S. intelligence officials and Senate aides told the Times that the committee did not interview Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service, as well as former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss, Mike Hayden, and other day-to-day mangers of the interrogation program.

The newspaper said some officials were informed that they were not interviewed because they had been under possible criminal investigation. But that inquiry by a special Justice Department prosecutor ended two years ago without any charges being filed, the Times reported.

Rodriguez said that former colleagues at the CIA told him the impending release of the report is having a detrimental effect on agency staff.

"These people have mothers, fathers, neighbors, and friends, and they have been slandered, been called torturers by the president," he said. "And I don’t think the government thinks stuff like this through for the consequences. They are throwing the agency under the bus right at a time when they need it most."

Rodriguez was alluding to the Obama administration putting pressure on the CIA to increase its efforts to uncover possible terror threats from overseas, particularly from the Islamic State, which beheaded American journalist James Foley last week, the Times reported.

Hayden, who ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said that he was not interviewed by the panel, along with Tenet and Goss. But they were allowed to read the report in July after signing a non-disclosure agreement.

"None of us had any influence on the agency response other than an understandable plea to make it as robust and honest as possible," he wrote in his regular Times column on Tuesday.

The Intelligence Committee confirmed Monday that it did not interview the key managers of the program, but relied on 6.3 million pages of documents, emails, and cables as well as the agency’s own prior interviews with 100 staff members, the Times said.

"The committee could not conduct interviews because of an ongoing DOJ criminal investigation into CIA activities," committee spokesman Tom Mentzer told the Times.

"Furthermore, interviews were not necessary because of the comprehensive documents available for review, including interview reports of senior CIA officers who carried out the program.

"In preparing its response to the study, the CIA reached out to its own officials for their perspectives of the program, which were included in the CIA’s response and in meetings with committee staff. These views were considered by the committee in updating the report."

Feinstein, meanwhile, is angry that the Obama administration redacted 15 percent of the report for security reasons, which she claimed reduced the impact of the panel’s findings.

"I have concluded that certain redactions eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s conclusions. Until these redactions are addressed to the committee’s satisfaction, the report will not be made public."

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