How Destroying Evidence Of Torture Gets You Promoted In Obama’s CIA

If you helped cover up evidence of war crimes by destroying unknown numbers of tapes of torture during interrogations and had actually run the “black site” prisons into which detainees were disappeared for torture, then given the President’s past rhetoric the last thing you’d have expected the Obama administration to agree to would have been your promotion to head of the clandestine service of the nation’s premier intelligence agency, right?

Fast forward to 2013.

A C.I.A. officer directly involved in the 2005 decision to destroy interrogation videotapes and who once ran one of the agency’s secret prisons has ascended to the top position within the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, according to current and former intelligence officials.

The officer, who has been serving in the position in an acting role for several weeks since the retirement of her direct boss, is one of a small group of candidates being considered to take over the job permanently.

…The promotion of the officer, who spent years working inside the agency’s Counterterrorist Center and once was in charge of a so-called black site, played a role in developing the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program, was first reported by The Washington Post. Because the officer remains undercover, The New York Times is not disclosing her identity.

The officer served as the C.I.A. station chief in London and New York, and the branch of the agency she now leads — called the National Clandestine Service — is responsible for all C.I.A. espionage operations and covert action programs. The head of the clandestine service is one of the most coveted jobs in the C.I.A., and has never before been run by a woman.

The destruction of dozens of C.I.A. interrogation tapes, documenting the interrogations of Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a secret C.I.A. detention facility in Thailand, was one of the most controversial episodes of the past decade. The Justice Department undertook an investigation into the matter after the destruction of the tapes was disclosed in late 2007, but no C.I.A. officers were criminally charged.

The destruction was ordered by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who at the time was the head of the agency’s clandestine service. The officer was serving as Mr. Rodriguez’s chief of staff, and several former C.I.A. officers said she was a strong advocate for getting rid of the tapes, which had been sitting for years inside a safe in the agency’s station in Bangkok. “She and Jose were the two main drivers for years for getting the tapes destroyed,” said one former senior C.I.A. officer.

In his book, “Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote that he had grown frustrated that the tapes might become public and expose the officers shown in them to jeopardy. The female officer held a meeting with agency lawyers, Mr. Rodriguez wrote, during which the officer was told that Mr. Rodriguez had authority to destroy the tapes. “My chief of staff drafted a cable approving the action that we had been trying to accomplish for so long,” Mr. Rodriguez wrote. “The cable left nothing to chance. It even told them how to get rid of the tapes.”

Now, although the CIA has only ever admitted “dozens” of tapes were found, and although the Pentagon has only ever “found” around fifty of the tapes it made of interrogations made by its own intelligence branches, the simple fact is that every single interrogation was taped until at least 2004 – interrogations made by CIA, DoD and other US agencies as well as by foreign agents from China, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia who were given access to interrogate Gitmo detainees and others. In all, according to a 2008 study, 24,000 tapes of interrogations were made at Gitmo alone, and an untold additional number of other tapes made at sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The destruction and deliberate “misplacing” of evidence from the Bush era’s torture programs has been both massive and illegal, attempting to cover up torture by and orders for torture stemming from the highest officials in the nation at the time.

Now, the decision on whether to allow one of the worst perpetrators of this crime against humanity to lead the nation’s clandestine service is in the hands of John Brennan, keeper of Obama’s “kill list” and a man who during the Bush administration was either fully complicit in illegal rendition and “enhanced interrogation” or at minimum looked the other way.

Moving forward.

Update – March 29:

“Appointing someone who directly supported the enhanced interrogation program — as opposed to having been part of the system that engaged in it — would be a mistake,” Glenn Carle, the agency’s former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, told Foreign Policy. “We should repudiate these sorts of practices, whatever the pressures and judgments of the moment were.”

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