Former CIA Director Porter Goss agreed with a 2005 decision to destroy interrogation videos showing waterboarding, but nobody told White House counsel Harriet Miers, who was "livid" to find out afterward, newly released CIA documents show.
The documents show that, despite Goss' agreement, officials almost immediately began worrying they'd done something improper, foreshadowing a controversy that has lingered for years and remains under FBI investigation.
The videos showed CIA interrogators using waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah. The videos showed that interrogators did not follow the waterboarding procedures authorized by President George W. Bush's administration, the documents show.
Jose Rodriguez, the agency's top clandestine officer, worried the tapes would be "devastating" to the CIA if they ever surfaced, the documents show.
Rodriguez told Goss and others he "felt it was extremely important to destroy the tapes and that if there was any heat, he would take it," according to a November 2005 e-mail. Goss laughed, according to the e-mail, and said he'd be the one to take the heat.
The e-mail then states: "PG, however, agreed with the decision."
The author of the e-mail was blacked out, and it's not clear whether Goss agreed that destroying the tapes was a wise decision or whether he gave formal approval. Goss has not discussed the matter publicly.
The e-mails, released late Thursday by the Justice Department under a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union, showed that Bush's top lawyer, Miers, and her CIA counterpart, John Rizzo, were both angry the tapes were destroyed.
"Rizzo is clearly upset because he was on the hook to notify Harriet Miers of the status of the tapes because it was she who had asked to be advised before any action was taken," reads a November 2005 e-mail from an unidentified CIA officer to the agency's No. 3 official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. "Apparently, Rizzo called Harriet this afternoon and she was livid."
The e-mail correctly predicts: "Rizzo does not think this is likely to just go away."
Years later, prosecutor John Durham is still investigating whether any crime was committed.
"These documents provide further evidence that senior CIA officials were willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said. "If the Department of Justice fails to hold these officials accountable, they will have succeeded in their cover-up."
CIA spokesman George Little said the agency continues to cooperate with that investigation.
"We hope that this issue is resolved soon," Little said.