At the Plate with J-Rod

Former CIA official takes on Obama administration, Democrats in Congress

Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA's National Clandestine Service and author of the newly released book "Hard Measures," has blasted Democratic leadership at all levels this week, charging that attacks on the CIA's enhanced interrogation program puts American lives at risk.

Rodriguez has said that President Obama is "breaking the covenant" between intelligence officers and the government, that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lied or "was confused" when she said she never knew waterboarding was taking place, and that the Senate's imminent report on enhanced interrogation is "highly partisan."

Rodriguez criticized the president's statements about the George W. Bush administration in an interview with "60 Minutes":

LESLEY STAHL: President Obama has said that what we did was torture.

JOSE RODRIGUEZ: Well, President Obama is entitled to his opinion. When President Obama condemns the covert action activities of a previous government, he is breaking the covenant that exists between intelligence officers, who are at the pointy end of the spear hanging out there, and the government that authorized them and directed them to go over there.

Rodriguez also disputes Pelosi's claims that she never knew that waterboarding was taking place in "Hard Measures," as detailed in a Monday Washington Post column by former Bush official Marc Thiessen. Pelosi was not only briefed by the CIA, she made no objections to the practice during the briefing, according to Rodriguez:

In his new book, "Hard Measures," Rodriguez reveals that he led a CIA briefing of Pelosi, where the techniques being used in the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida were described in detail. Her claim that she was not told about waterboarding at that briefing, he writes, "is untrue."

"We explained that as a result of the techniques, Abu Zubaydah was compliant and providing good intelligence. We made crystal clear that authorized techniques, including waterboarding, had by then been used on Zubaydah." Rodriguez writes that he told Pelosi everything, adding, "We held back nothing."

How did she respond when presented with this information? Rodriguez writes that neither Pelosi nor anyone else in the briefing objected to the techniques being used. Indeed, he notes, when one member of his team described another technique that had been considered but not authorized or used, "Pelosi piped up immediately and said that in her view, use of that technique (which I will not describe) would have been ‘wrong.’ " She raised no such concern about waterboarding, he writes. "Since she felt free to label one considered-and-rejected technique as wrong," Rodriguez adds, "we went away with the clear impression that she harbored no such feelings about the ten tactics [including waterboarding] that we told her were in use."

In his own Washington Post op-ed Monday, Rodriguez emphasized that the hunt for bin Laden began before Sept. 11, 2001, and said Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin "misunderstood and mischaracterized" his position regarding bin Laden's death, as well as those of former CIA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey, in a statement the senators released over the weekend.

As Thiessen points out in a blog post Tuesday, Feinstein and Levin's statement is in conflict with Obama's own former CIA director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said in an interview with Brian Williams that enhanced interrogation had been used in acquiring information that ultimately led to bin Laden's death.

Rodriguez also called the Senate commission on the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation methods "highly partisan" in an interview with Reuters:

"I just do not understand how anyone who really understands the record can say that," he said, referring to criticism that harsh interrogation did not work. "I just don't understand that because this was the key to allowing us to understand how al Qaeda operated and to taking down the organization." [...]

Rodriguez said the interrogation of Mohammed yielded results, even if he never gave up bin Laden's location.

"The enhanced interrogation techniques only lasted three weeks or so and then after that he became compliant," he said. "And from there he continued to provide intelligence for years."