Veteran CIA official Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., who led all U.S. counterterrorism operations after 9/11, tells Newsmax that under President Barack Obama the agency has been forced to give up interrogation “capabilities” that it may need to protect American lives.
He also warns that al-Qaida still poses a “continuous threat” of a terrorist strike, and says the leaking of details regarding the new underwear bomber is “very damaging to national security.”
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Rodriguez is the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, and oversaw the Counterterrorism Center, which collected vital intelligence from captured terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. His new book is “Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Rodriguez discussed the leaking to the press of details about the new underwear bomber. The plot to use an underwear bomb was recently foiled by the CIA through the use of an operative posing as a would-be bomber, and some reports allege that the leak came from Obama’s White House.
“I am very distraught by the leak,” he says.
“People don’t understand that this is very damaging to national security. It prevents us from doing similar things in the future because the methodology is compromised. I think it is just very unfortunate.”
See the excerpt of the Newsmax interview with Rodriguez below:
While al-Qaida has been crippled to some extent by American anti-terrorism efforts, “the foiling of this plot demonstrates that they are still around,” Rodriguez notes.
“They are capable of striking at any moment. I don’t think we can ever be so complacent. I don’t think we should ever declare victory over this enemy.
“Al-Qaida is a worldwide organization. It’s a continuous threat.”
In his book, Rodriguez asserts that the CIA’s interrogation program using enhanced techniques such as waterboarding was the most maligned and misunderstood mission in the agency’s history, with Obama openly criticizing the program and, therefore, the CIA. Asked if he fears the CIA will be weakened, especially if Obama is re-elected, he responds: “I am very concerned that we have given up capabilities and methodologies that have worked in the past.
“I know they work and I’m concerned because in the future we may need these.
“So while it is the prerogative of the president to make that decision, I am concerned that in the future we may miss these and we may need them to protect American lives.”
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a stir in May 2009 when she accused the CIA of misleading Congress by not briefing lawmakers on the use of waterboarding. Rodriguez refutes that claim.
“The facts are that in August 2002 we used enhanced interrogation on [high-ranking al-Qaida operative] Abu Zubaydah. In September when Congress got back in session I led the team that briefed Congressman Porter Goss [then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee] and Nancy Pelosi about the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and the use of the techniques including waterboarding.”
As for the reaction of Rodriguez’s fellow officers to Pelosi’s claim that the CIA had lied to Congress, he observes: “We are of course very concerned, because if we were to do the same thing and lie to the Congress, they would put us in jail.”
Rodriguez explains why he ordered the destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects, which set off an investigation by the Justice Department and congressional committees.
“These tapes were created because Abu Zubaydah had been severely wounded during his capture by the Pakistanis and we wanted to show the world that we were treating Abu Zubaydah humanely and were actually trying to save his life.
“Later we wanted to use the tapes to see how much we could learn about Abu Zubaydah, his behavior, how we could best assess him psychologically.
“But pretty quickly we became convinced that they had become a security problem for us because my officers’ faces were shown on the tapes, so at some point we decided to destroy them. We asked for permission for three years and everybody told us it was legal to do it. I finally made the decision myself in November of 2005.”
Rodriguez also explains why, if his actions were legal, he told the House Intelligence Committee that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment rights if ordered to appear before the committee to talk about the videotapes.
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“My action was legal, but in today’s world, where anything you say can be used against you, your lawyer advises you not to say a word, and that’s what I did. I protected my rights as an American.”
Rodriguez was also asked about the interrogation techniques used by enemies of America, including al-Qaida.
“They are not restricted as we are by law as to what we can do,” he tells Newsmax.
“The concern we have is that if somebody from our side gets captured they are going to get their throats slit.”
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