Law Politics The War on Terrorism

Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr.

Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane of the Times have a solid piece today on Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., the former head of CIA’s Directorate of Operations.  The piece seems to suffer from a bit too much editing – but it gives the reader a flavor of the lurking back story behind Mr. Rodriguez’s role in the destruction of the interrogation tapes.

As an example of editing gone wrong, the story begins with this intriguing opening:

It would become known inside the Central Intelligence Agency as “the Italian job,” a snide movie reference to the bungling performance of an agency team that snatched a radical Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003 and flew him to Egypt — a case that led to criminal charges in Italy against 26 Americans.

That’s about as far into the matter as this story goes – although I’m sure the story isn’t breaking here for the first time.

I was left with both an admiration for Mr. Rodriguez’s character and an anger that it seems unlikely that he will face any consequences for blatantly and deliberately breaking the law.  His lawyer characterizes the coda that led him to destroy the interrogation videos as well as cover up the abuses in “the Italian Job” operation as this: “I’m not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do.”

In describing his reason for destroying the tapes, the Times concludes:

Mr. Rodriguez, who was nearing retirement, saw the tapes as a sort of time bomb that, if leaked, threatened irreparable damage to the United States’ image in the Muslim world, his friends say, and posed physical and legal risks to C.I.A. officers on them.

Again – I sympathize with him.  And his distrust of the administration – as well as any political administration – is well-founded.  Sympathy cannot override the necessary condition of any free society: that the law must be held above any individual.

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