Will Ex-CIA Name Names In Tape Scandal?

graphic, CIA label over White House
AP
A former CIA official is expected to seek immunity when testifying before a House committee investigating the destruction of videotapes recording CIA interrogation sessions, reportedly to implicate the White House in the tapes' destruction, according to intelligence sources quoted in a London newspaper.

The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena Thursday to Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA official who oversaw the interrogation of terrorism suspects, and who allegedly ordered the destruction of interrogation videotapes.

According to the Times of London, Rodriguez will seek immunity from prosecution before testifying before the committee on January 15.

It was learned earlier this month that the CIA had recorded hundreds of hours of interrogations of at least two terrorism suspects, allegedly incorporating torture techniques, and then destroyed the tapes in 2005. The CIA hid the existence of the tapes from judges, congressional overseers, and the 9/11 Commission investigating the government's intelligence activities.

This week a U.S. judge questioned whether the CIA's destruction of the tapes violated a court order issued in 2005 to preserve any information relating to the interrogation of terrorism suspects at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay. CIA lawyers responded that the tapes were not subject to that order because, even though Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri have been detained at Guantanamo, their interrogations were conducted elsewhere.

A former CIA officer has spoken publicly that Zubaydah was waterboarded (a form of torture that simulates drowning). He allegedly "broke" and revealed information, although there has been much dispute as to the veracity of that information.

The House investigation comes on the heels of President Bush's comments that he did not "recall" the existence of the torture tapes until he was briefed on the matter by CIA director Michael Hayden about two weeks ago, and a subsequent New York Times report that at least four White House officials discussed the tapes at least two years ago.

The four staffers cited were Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David Addington, a key aide to Vice President Dick Cheney; John Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet Miers, who succeeded Gonzales as White House counsel.

In an interview with the London Times, former CIA counterterrorism head Vincent Cannistraro said it was impossible for Rodriguez to have independently ordered the destruction of the tapes. "If everybody was against the decision, why in the world would Jose Rodriguez - one of the most cautious men I have ever met - have gone ahead and destroyed them?"

Another former CIA officer, Larry Johnson, told the Times that when he speaks to Congress, Rodriguez could implicate the White House: "The CIA and Jose Rodriguez look bad," he told the paper, "but he's probably the least culpable person in the process. He didn't wake up one day and decide, 'I'm going to destroy these tapes.' He checked with a lot of people, and eventually he is going to get his say."

History may play a part in this: According to Johnson, Rodriguez - a 30-year veteran of the agency - was questioned in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, at which time the Reagan-Bush administration backed away from protecting him, telling him the political nature of the scandal meant he should get his own lawyer.

Rodriguez was director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, until his retirement in September.

Intelligence sources told the Times that it is likely Rodriguez is determined to not become a "fall guy" in the matter.

Rodriguez's attorney notified the House Intelligence Committee this week that Rodriguez would agree to the committee's request to appear, but that he required a subpoena first.

That subpoena was issued on Thursday.