WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on coercive tactics betrays intelligence officials and will erode their trust in future presidential administrations, a former CIA official who oversaw the agency's enhanced interrogation program said Sunday.
Jose Rodriguez, who headed the agency's counterterrorism section and its clandestine service, said that the Senate report "throws the CIA under this bus." He predicted that intelligence officials would be undercut by "second-guessing" from the White House and Congress and warned that allied nations that have cooperated with U.S. intelligence in the past might reassess their aid.
Rodriguez, who authored a memoir of his CIA years, said Sunday the use of enhanced interrogations under his purview was "one of the most thoroughly reviewed covert action programs in the history of the agency." He raised concerns that "leaders at the agency are going to wonder whether the authorities that they receive from the president will last longer than one election phase."
Rodriguez was among several former senior CIA and Bush administration officials who appeared on Sunday's news shows and tried to cast doubt on the 525-page Senate report, which riveted the American public last week with accounts of brutal interrogations of terror detainees that ranged from simulated drowning to improvised enemas. Vice President Dick Cheney, long known for his blunt dismissal of critics of the harsh tactics, tossed off the report as "a crock."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of several congressional leaders who defended the document, said the detailed accounts justified the report's public release. "What we need to do is come clean, move forward and vow not to do it again," McCain said, adding, "We're not a perfect nation, but we acknowledge our mistakes." A Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, McCain was shot down over North Vietnam, held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi and tortured before his captors released him six years later.
The report spans the creation and four-year history of the CIA's coercive interrogations and secret overseas prisons. Its release last week spawned media attention, international outrage and a carefully coordinated rebuttal that included an official CIA response and critiques from former senior agency officials. Among the critics is Rodriguez, a tough-talking agency veteran who micromanaged the interrogation program and ordered the destruction of videotapes of some waterboarding sessions, according to the Senate report.
The CIA veteran also revived previous claims that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other top Democratic legislators were thoroughly briefed and approved the program that President Barack Obama now calls torture. Pelosi and other Democrats have denied Rodriguez' claims.
"We came to know very gradually about it," countered Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Bush administration lawyers provided a legal basis for the harsh interrogations and no CIA officials were prosecuted for their involvement. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Sunday he plans to introduce legislation so that "if torture is used in the future there would be a basis to prosecute."
Rodriguez and Whitehouse spoke on "Fox News Sunday," Cheney and Wyden were on NBC's "Meet the Press" and McCain made his remarks on CBS' "Face the Nation."