Accroding to the New York Times, then- CIA Jose A. Rodriguez, the then-head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, was the man who made the call to destroy the videotapes of interrogations/torture of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Whether or not it was really his call (and some are dubious), he seems to be the one facing possible obstruction of justice charges.
So who is Jose A. Rodriguez, the man the AP referred to as “the most important man in the U.S. spy game whose name you probably never knew?” Is he the basis for 24’s Jack Bauer?
On the CIA website, we find these fascinating comments about Rodriguez by Silvestre Reyes, the Democratic Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, at the Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso in August. Reyes presents an award to Rodriguez by referring to him as:
an individual here that [Intelligence Committee staffer] Mike Delaney tells me was the impetus to – I hope all of you are familiar with the TV series “24.” This gentleman that I’m about to thank was really the genesis – with a few liberties that Hollywood takes – the exploits of Jose Rodriguez are documented in the series “24.” So he admitted to me that he likes fast cars. I won’t tell you about the women, but I will tell you about the fast cars. (Laughter.) He is a connoisseur of fine wine…I consider him an American hero.
[Update: Harpers’ Ken Silverstein sites reports that Rodriguez is in business with Reyes’s brother.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez, two sources have told me, is doing business in Texas with the brother of Silvestre Reyes…. From what I understand, Rodriguez and Chairman Reyes are extremely close friends, and the congressman “set up Rodriguez with his brother.”
Which makes it all that much more interesting that the Committee that Reyes chairs will be investigating Rodriguez.]
(Rodriguez’s appearance at the conference was apparently part of his post-clandestine efforts to increase diversity in U.S. intelligence.)
David Wise wrote about Rodriguez’s “checkered past” in the LA Times in August:
Ten years ago, Rodriguez was fired as chief of the CIA’s Latin America division after he sought to intervene to help a friend who had been arrested in the Dominican Republic for possession of cocaine and illegal weapons. The friend had also worked for the CIA in the Dominican Republic….[T]he director of the CIA felt that any criticism that might result from unmasking the top spy’s identity was outweighed by the need to emphasize the agency’s goal of recruiting officers from a variety of backgrounds.
In a ceremony honoring Rodriguez, CIA director Michael Hayden called him “candid, straightforward, creative, and always open to dialogue, no matter the issue at hand.”
The NY Times this week has told us very little about Rodriguez other than reporting on his actions with the tapes:
Top C.I.A. officials had decided in 2003 to preserve the tapes in response to warnings from White House lawyers and lawmakers that destroying the tapes would be unwise, in part because it could carry legal risks, the government officials said. But the government officials said that Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the agency’s clandestine service, the Directorate of Operations, had reversed that decision in November 2005, at a time when Congress and the courts were inquiring deeply into the C.I.A.’s interrogation and detention program….The current and former intelligence officials said that when Mr. Rodriguez ultimately decided in late 2005 to destroy the tapes, he did so without advising Mr. Rizzo, Mr. Muller’s successor as the agency’s top general counsel. Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Goss were among the C.I.A. officials who were angry when told that the tapes had been destroyed, the officials said
Jose Rodriguez is a native of Puerto Rico. Rodriguez apparently was a military attache — a MILGP or MILGRP (US Military Group) “commander” (supposedly an Army colonel) — at the US Embassy in Argentina from 1994-1996. Officially a Military Group officer advises the US ambassador on military matters and is a liason between the US Government and the host country’s security and military forces (actually, a funnel for money, arms, and intelligence)…. Rodriguez’s publicity shyness compared to his predecessors apparently was in deference to his wife’s desire to pursue a career as a physical trainer rather than any requirement of his job.
Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi has an interesting summary of post-Watergate fears in the CIA.
Since Watergate, the CIA’s case officers have been restrained by the expectation that taking risks in pursuit of actionable intelligence would bring career-ending, or even life-threatening, exposure if things went badly and details came to light. …The irony may be that Rodriguez could have made matters worse, rather than better, for the clandestine service by destroying the tapes. A former senior Administration official says that the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the case officers had been approved by top lawyers and officials at the Justice Department and the White House, including then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Even if the techniques were in violation of the domestic and international prohibitions on torture, it would have been very hard for the powers at the White House, CIA and Justice to “moonwalk” away from the techniques if and when they were exposed.