CIA to give up documents on destroying tapes

Top agency lawyer to testify to House

December 20, 2007|By New York Times News Service.

WASHINGTON -- The CIA has agreed to make documents related to the destruction of interrogation videotapes available to the House Intelligence Committee and to allow the agency's top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, to testify about the matter, congressional and intelligence officials said yesterday.

But it remained unclear whether Jose A. Rodriguez, who as chief of the agency's clandestine service ordered the tapes destroyed in 2005, would testify.

Officials said Rodriguez's appearance before the committee might involve complex negotiations over legal immunity as the Justice Department and the CIA are reviewing whether the destruction of the tapes broke any laws.

The agreement marked at least a partial resolution of a standoff between the Bush administration and Congress.

The standoff began Friday, when the Justice Department urged the House panel to postpone any inquiry because it might hinder the review by Justice and the CIA's inspector general. The committee's Democratic chairman, Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, and top Republican, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, responded by refusing to put off the investigation, saying there were many precedents for congressional inquiries to proceed in parallel with criminal investigations.

This week, the administration has sought a compromise. Justice officials said they still had misgivings about the House committee's plans, but they did not advise the CIA to stonewall.

"The Department of Justice has changed their minds, and today we have reason to believe that we will be getting the documents," Reyes told reporters yesterday.

The committee sent unsigned subpoenas for documents and for the testimony of Rodriguez and Rizzo to the CIA on Tuesday, and Reyes said he was prepared to sign the subpoenas if it becomes necessary.

But a CIA spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said the agency's director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, is eager to accommodate the committee as it performs its oversight role.

"We're in touch with the House Intelligence Committee on these matters, and we look forward to it being worked out," Mansfield said.

An intelligence official, offering more details on condition of anonymity, said the top secret documents would be made available either on Capitol Hill or at the agency, as soon as the logistics could be worked out, as early as this afternoon.

The official also said Rizzo, the CIA's acting general counsel, would be prepared to testify at a hearing tentatively scheduled for Jan. 16. As the agency's top lawyer for most of the past six years, Rizzo played a central role in discussions of whether the tapes should be destroyed.

The official declined to say whether Rodriguez would testify. Rodriguez's lawyer, Robert S. Bennett, declined to comment.

The New York Times reported that discussions about destroying the tapes involved four high-level White House lawyers.

In a statement yesterday, White House press secretary Dana M. Perino criticized a subheading on the Times article that read, "White House role was wider than it said." She called any suggestion that the White House tried to mislead the public on the videotapes "pernicious and troubling."

The Times said it would publish a correction today. The Times also noted that the White House "had not challenged the content of our story," according to a statement from a newspaper spokesman.

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