WASHINGTON - The House intelligence committee issued a subpoena yesterday for Jose Rodriguez, the former CIA official who directed that secret interrogation videotapes of two terror suspects be destroyed.
The panel ordered Rodriguez, former head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, to appear for a hearing Jan. 16. Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D., Texas) said Rodriguez "would like to tell his story, but his counsel has advised us that a subpoena would be necessary."
The CIA opened its files yesterday to congressional investigators, inviting them to the agency's Virginia headquarters to begin reviewing documents and records related to the videotapes.
House intelligence staffers 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 it did not get access this week, also wants to know exactly what was shown on the tapes, which document the harsh interrogation of two al-Qaeda 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 of the tapes' destruction is ongoing. "Many in the executive branch will be called."
The committee is still drawing up its list of witnesses to call.
President Bush declined to address the controversy, saying at a news conference yesterday that he was confident administration and congressional investigations "will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened."
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 indicated that Alberto R. Gonzales, who was White House counsel and then attorney general, advised against destroying the tapes as one of four senior administration attorneys discussing how to handle them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the investigation. Gonzales attorney George Terwilliger declined to comment.
Another White House n's attorneys, John Bellinger, then a lawyer at the National Security Council, has told colleagues that administration lawyers reached 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.
Exactly which White House officials and attorneys discussed the tapes' destruction, and when, with whom and what they recommended, is still a matter of dispute, and one that Reyes hopes his investigation will settle.
Reyes plans to open his investigation Jan. 16 with testimony from Rodriguez and acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo.
The CIA has consented to let Rizzo testify, though it has not committed to a date. Rodriguez is represented by Robert Bennett, who also once represented President Bill Clinton, two former secretaries of defense, and then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Reyes also wants the CIA to make available CIA attorneys Steve Hermes, Robert Eatinger, Elizabeth Vogt and John McPherson to testify. Former CIA Directors Porter Goss and George Tenet, former deputy director of operations James L. Pavitt, and former general counsel Scott Muller are also on the list.
Muller, who headed the CIA's legal office from 2002 to 2004, advised agency officials against destroying the tapes, said former government officials familiar with the situation who are not authorized to speak on the record.
The Justice Department
is investigating whether a former CIA officer illegally disclosed classified information in interviews he gave on how the CIA interrogated a suspected top al-Qaeda member.
The former officer
, John Kiriakou, gave detailed descriptions this month to ABC News and the Washington Post of how detainee Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded. The procedure is widely considered a form of torture, which is illegal under U.S. and international laws.
were the first public confirmation that Zubaydah, who allegedly helped finance the Sept. 11 attacks, had been subjected to the technique while in secret CIA custody. He is now at Guantanamo.