Video: Bush on presidential race, CIA tapes

updated 12/20/2007 7:40:14 PM ET 2007-12-21T00:40:14

A House of Representatives committee issued a subpoena Thursday for Jose Rodriguez, a former CIA official who directed that secret interrogation videotapes be destroyed.

The House intelligence committee ordered Rodriguez, former head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, to appear Jan. 16 for a hearing. The Democratic committee chairman, Silvestre Reyes, said Rodriguez "would like to tell his story, but his counsel has advised us that a subpoena would be necessary."

The CIA also cracked open its files to congressional investigators Thursday, inviting them to the agency's headquarters in suburban Virginia to begin reviewing documents and records related to the tapes.

House intelligence committee staff members want to know who authorized the tapes' destruction; who in the CIA, Justice Department and White House knew about it, and when; and why Congress was not fully informed. The committee, which had threatened to subpoena the records if its investigators were not given access this week, also wants to know exactly what was shown on the tapes that documented harsh interrogations of two al-Qaida suspects in 2002. The CIA destroyed the tapes in 2005.

"We learned we have a long way to go, that there are a number of people involved that we need to talk with," said a committee official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is under way. "Many in the executive branch will be called." The committee is still drawing up its list of witnesses to call.

President keeping quiet
President Bush would not talk about the controversy, saying at a White House news conference that he was confident administration and congressional investigations "will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened." He repeated his assertion that his "first recollection" of being told about the tapes and their destruction was when CIA Director Michael Hayden briefed him on it earlier this month.

At the Justice Department, investigators were combing through CIA e-mails and other documents and planning to interview former agency officials. One official familiar with the investigation said the review so far indicates that Alberto Gonzales, who served as White House counsel and then attorney general, advised against destroying the videotapes as one of four senior Bush administration attorneys discussing how to handle them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation. Gonzales' attorney, George Terwilliger, declined comment.

Another of the administration lawyers, John Bellinger, then a lawyer at the National Security Council, has told colleagues that administration lawyers came to a consensus that the tapes should not be destroyed, said a senior official familiar with Bellinger's account of the 2003 White House discussion. Bellinger could not be reached for comment.

"The clear recommendation of Bellinger and the others was against destruction of the tapes," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. "The recommendation in 2003 from the White House was that the tapes should not be destroyed."

CIA officials' testimony wanted
Exactly which officials and attorneys discussed the tapes' destruction and when, and with whom, is still a matter of dispute, and one that Reyes, a Democrat, hopes to settle.

Reyes plans to open his investigation with testimony from Rodriguez and acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo on Jan. 16.

Rizzo will testify, though the CIA has not committed to a date. Rodriguez has his own lawyer, so his arrangements were being made separately.

Reyes' panel rejected a Bush administration request that it defer its investigation until a preliminary inquiry being conducted the Justice Department and CIA inspector general is completed.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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