Jose Rodriguez (intelligence officer)

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Jose Rodriguez
Jose Rodriguez CIA photograph.jpg
Director of the National Clandestine Service
In office
November 16, 2004 – September 30, 2007
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byStephen Kappes
Succeeded byMichael Sulick
Personal details
Born (1948-10-21) October 21, 1948 (age 71)
Puerto Rico
Alma materUniversity of Florida (BA, JD)

Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr. (born October 21, 1948) is an American former intelligence officer who served as Director of the National Clandestine Service Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He was the final CIA deputy director for operations (DDO) before that position was expanded to D/NCS in December 2004.[1][2] Rodriguez was a central figure in the 2005 CIA interrogation videotapes destruction, leading to The New York Times Editorial Board and Human Rights Watch to call for his prosecution.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Puerto Rico in 1948, Rodriguez attended the University of Florida, earning both a bachelor's degree and Juris Doctor.


Rodriguez joined the CIA in 1976 and served for 31 years. According to retired General Michael Hayden, "Jose built a reputation for leadership in the field and here at headquarters, and he guided some of the agency's greatest counterterror victories. He has done much to protect our country by strengthening its Clandestine Service."[5]

Much of his career was as an officer under the Directorate of Operations in the Latin America division, assigned to work in countries ranging from Peru to Belize. From 1994 to 1996, he worked under the guise of Military Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. Over time, he was promoted to chief of station in Panama, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, and subsequently chief of Latin America Division. He was removed from the post in 1997 after an incident where he intervened to help a friend who had been arrested on drug charges in the Dominican Republic. In 1999, he transferred to Mexico City, where he again served as a station chief.[6]

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Rodriguez was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Counterterrorism Center.[7] In May 2002, Rodriguez was promoted to the post of Director of the Counterterrorism Center.[8] The Counterterrorism Center brings together case officers, operators, analysts, and technologists to work on preventing terrorism. In this capacity, Rodriguez was responsible for driving the CIA operations and the targeting analysis necessary to uncover terrorists in the Al Qaeda network. In the time period that Rodriguez was there, the Counterterrorism Center grew sharply. The number of analysts quadrupled, and the number of operations officers doubled.[9] In 2004 Rodriguez advised the organizers of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, including the chief organizer, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, on security matters and counterterrorism.

CIA/Deputy director for Operations and head of NCS[edit]

On November 16, 2004, Rodriguez succeeded Stephen Kappes to become the deputy director for operations.[10] Rodriguez continued in his capacity as the head of CIA clandestine operations, now as director of the National Clandestine Service. In this expanded role, Rodriguez is the chief of all human intelligence gathering (HUMINT) conducted by the U.S. government, including outside agencies. On February 7, 2006, Rodriguez fired Robert Grenier, his successor as director of the Counterterrorism Center, for not being "aggressive" enough in combating terrorism.[11]

Issues in CIA career[edit]

Like many officers in the Latin American Division, during the Iran–Contra affair, Rodriguez was questioned by the FBI about his role in the scandal after allegations of CIA involvement emerged.[12] No charges or actions were brought against him in connection with Iran–Contra.

Much later, in 1997, Rodriguez interceded in the drug-related arrest of a friend in the Dominican Republic, trying to get the Dominican government to drop the charges.[13] According to the New York Times, the CIA's inspector general criticized Rodriguez for a "remarkable lack of judgment."[14]

Controversy over destruction of interrogation videotapes[edit]

In the campaign against Al-Qaeda, several senior leaders in the organization were captured by the CIA in 2002. They were subjected to what has been described as torture or enhanced interrogation techniques, according to the U.S. government. The interrogations of two of the captives were videotaped.

In 2005, while head of the Clandestine Service, Rodriguez ordered that videotape recordings of two 2002 CIA interrogations be destroyed.[15] CIA officials initially stated that the recordings were destroyed to protect the identity of the interrogators, after they were no longer of intelligence value to any investigations.[16] "He would always say, 'I'm not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,'" said Robert Richer, Rodriguez's deputy recalling conversations with his boss about the tapes.[17] It was later revealed that the deputy to Kyle Foggo, then executive director of the CIA, wrote in an email that Rodriguez thought "the heat from destroying is nothing compared with what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain—he said that out of context they would make us look terrible; it would be 'devastating' to us."[18]

The tapes reportedly showed two men held in CIA custody, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri,[19] being subjected to a program of 'enhanced' interrogation techniques that included a procedure called waterboarding. Critics allege these methods amount to torture and the tapes were evidence both protected by court order and the 9/11 Commission.[20][21] Rodriguez's record has come under scrutiny after it was reported that the destruction of the videotapes was allegedly in defiance of orders from then–CIA director Porter Goss.[22]

Summoned by congressional subpoena, he was excused from a January 16, 2008, House Intelligence Committee hearing on a request from his lawyer, Robert S. Bennett.[8] Rodriguez has requested immunity in exchange for his testimony on the tape recordings.[23] Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst familiar with Rodriguez and the tapes, commented in a December 23, 2007 Sunday Times story that "it looks increasingly as though the decision was made by the White House." He also alleged it is "highly likely" that President George W. Bush saw one of the videos.[12]

After an exhaustive three-year investigation into the destruction of the videotapes of the interrogations (including pictures of the interrogators), the Justice Department announced in November 2010 it would not pursue any charges against Jose Rodriguez.[24] As The Washington Post reported, "Robert S. Bennett, an attorney for Rodriguez, said he is 'pleased that the Justice Department has decided not to go forward against Mr. Rodriguez. This is the right decision because of the facts and the law.'"[25] Commentator Glenn Greenwald described the decision as just another in a long line of instances of the Obama White House granting legal immunity to Bush-era crimes.[26]

Rodriguez continues to work in the private sector and recently provided interviews to Time in the aftermath of the death of Osama bin Laden.[27]

The New York Times Editorial board and Human Rights Watch have called for the prosecution of Rodriguez "for conspiracy to torture as well as other crimes."[28][29]

Responsibility for torture and murder of Gul Rahman[edit]

In 2002, while in CIA custody, an Afghan detainee named Gul Rahman was tortured, doused with water, and left outside to suffer in temperatures near freezing. CIA doctors later determined that Rahman froze to death. His death was hastily covered-up by the CIA, his body cremated, and his family not notified.

In 2014, Steven W. Hawkins, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, that Rodriguez was the CIA official responsible for Rahman's death. Pending investigation, Rodriguez was not only not punished, or sanctioned, rather, he received a cash bonus for his "consistently superior work".[30]

Career after CIA[edit]

After reportedly being heavily recruited to join the international security firm Blackwater, Rodriguez instead joined the privately-owned National Interest Security Company in Fairfax, Virginia, which combined several formerly independent companies.[31][32][33] In NISC, Rodriguez was made a senior vice president in Edge Consulting, an intelligence assessment and strategy consulting group.[34][35] Edge Consulting (now a part of IBM) was founded by Chris Whitlock and Frank Strickland to assess intelligence performance with special emphasis on Iraq and Afghanistan, while also working issues in the broader intelligence community.[36][37] NISC was purchased by IBM in March 2010.[38] Rodriguez appeared in some press around the acquisition by IBM as part of the rationale for the big firm's purchase of NISC, with its specialization in the intelligence and defense communities.[39]

In 2012, Rodriguez's book Hard Measures was published. It details the story of the campaign against Al Qaeda.[40] This effort, or the CIA's lead portion of it, concerns the capture of a number of the key operational leaders in Al Qaeda's global network. Rodriguez recently told Time magazine that leads coming from key detainees early in the campaign against Al Qaeda were crucial in ultimately leading to the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. Rodriguez readily admits the role of other sources and efforts, but argues the impact of the interrogation of senior leaders early on should not be lost. As Time reported directly, "Rodriguez agrees that other events played a role in developing the intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts. And he says that despite widespread focus on KSM, al Libbi's information was the most important. Both KSM and al Libbi were held at CIA black sites and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques," Rodriguez says. "Abu Faraj was not waterboarded, but his information on the courier was key."[41] Rodriguez's claims about the efficacy of torture in the manhunt for Osama bin Laden were directly contradicted by the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, which reported that targeting of bin Laden's courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, was underway before the use of torture, and that the relevant intelligence was gained from detainees before subjecting them to torture.[42]


  • Rodriguez, Jose A. (2012). Hard Measures. with Bill Harlow. New York: Threshold Editions. ISBN 9781451663471. LCCN 2012003698.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vest, Jason (December 3, 2004). "Politicized espionage: Insiders fear that changeovers at the CIA will weaken the agency". The Phoenix. Archived from the original on March 20, 2018. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  2. ^ "About the CIA". The Central Intelligence Agency. June 13, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  3. ^ Fang, Lee (November 11, 2016). "Donald Trump May Select an Architect of Bush's Torture Program to Run CIA". The Intercept. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  4. ^ Golden, Tim (May 9, 2018). "Haspel, Spies and Videotapes". ProPublica. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  5. ^ Shrader, Katherine (August 8, 2007). "Longtime CIA Spy Unmasks for Retirement". Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Shane, Scott (February 20, 2008). "Tape Inquiry: Ex-Spymaster in the Middle". New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
  7. ^ {url=}
  8. ^ a b "Station Chief Made Appeal To Destroy CIA Tapes". Washington Post. January 16, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  9. ^ "Statement by CIA Spokesman Bill Harlow – Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  10. ^ Diamond, John (November 18, 2004). "CIA plans riskier, more aggressive espionage". USA Today. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  11. ^ Gellman, Barton; Dafna Linzer (February 7, 2006). "Top Counterterrorism Officer Removed Amid Turmoil at CIA". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
  12. ^ a b Baxter, Sarah (December 23, 2007). "CIA chief to drag White House into torture coverup storm". The Times. London. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  13. ^
  14. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (December 10, 2007). "C.I.A. Official in Inquiry Called a 'Hero'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  15. ^ Mazzetti, Mark (December 7, 2007). "C.I.A. Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  16. ^ Calabresi, Massimo (December 7, 2007). "CIA Tapes Furor: A Legacy of Mistrust". Time. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  17. ^ Mazzetti, Mark; Shane, Scott (December 31, 1969). "Jose Rodriguez, center of tapes inquiry, was protective of his CIA subordinates". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Finn, Peter; Tate, Julie (April 15, 2010). "2005 Destruction of Interrogation Tapes Caused Concern at CIA, e-mails Show". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  19. ^ Kean, Thomas H.; Hamilton, Lee H. (January 2, 2008). "Stonewalled by the C.I.A". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  20. ^ "The Man Who Ordered CIA's Tape Destruction, José Rodríguez Ordered Tapes of Terror Interrogations Destroyed Without Telling CIA Director". CBS News. December 11, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  21. ^ "White House: Miers Told CIA to Save Tapes". ABC News. December 7, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  22. ^ Scott Shane And Mark Mazzetti (December 30, 2007). "Tapes by C.I.A. Lived and Died to Save Image – New York Times". The New York Times. Abu Ghraib (Iraq). Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  23. ^ Eggen, Dan; Warrick, Joby (January 10, 2008). "Ex-CIA Official May Refuse to Testify About Videotapes". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  24. ^ Johnson, Carrie (November 9, 2010). "No Charges to Be Filed for Destruction of CIA Interrogation Tapes". NPR. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  25. ^ Markon, Jerry (November 9, 2010). "No charges in destruction of CIA videotapes, Justice Department says". The Washington Post.
  26. ^ "The Jose Rodriguez lesson". May 1, 2012.
  27. ^ Fastenberg, Dan (May 4, 2011). "Enhanced Interrogation". TIME. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  28. ^ "No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  29. ^ "Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses". The New York Times. December 21, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2015.
  30. ^ Iglesias, David; Hawkins, Steven W.; Iacopino, Vincent; Camerino, Tony; Wheeler, Marcy; Sifton, John; Hawkins, Katherine (9 December 2014). "Shock and anal probe: reading between the redactions in the CIA torture report". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-11. This is a particularly despicable and illuminating look into how the CIA treated its officers who were carrying out torture techniques. After a detainee, Gul Rahman, was chained, nearly naked, to a concrete floor for an extended time and then froze to death, no officer on-site nor at the CIA was disciplined – let alone prosecuted. In fact, the CIA officer in charge of the detention site was recommended to receive a bonus of $2,500 for his "consistently superior work".
  31. ^ "Revolving Door to Blackwater Causes Alarm at CIA, By Ken Silverstein (Harper's Magazine)". September 11, 2001. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  32. ^ "José Rodríguez joins National Interest Security Company". October 7, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  33. ^ "National Interest Security Company – A Leading Provider of Information, Management, and Technology Services". Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  34. ^ "National Interest Security Company – A Leading Provider of Information, Management, and Technology Services". Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  35. ^ [1]
  36. ^ "Chris Whitlock". LinkedIn. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  37. ^ "NISC – Jose Rodriguez, former Director of the CIA National Clandestine Service, joins National Interest Security Company". October 7, 2008. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  38. ^ "IBM News room – 2010-03-02 IBM Completes Acquisition of National Interest Security Company – United States". March 2, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  39. ^ "IBM buying National Interest Security Company – security, NISC, mergers and acquisitions, IBM – Security". Techworld. January 21, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  40. ^ "SpyTalk: Ex-CIA Official Jose Rodriguez Inks Book Contract, Claims Torture Led to Bin Laden". May 5, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  41. ^ Calabresi, Massimo (May 4, 2011). "Ex-CIA Counterterror Chief: 'Enhanced Interrogation' Led U.S. to bin Laden". Time.
  42. ^ Blair, David (December 10, 2014). "CIA torture report: enhanced interrogation helped us catch Osama bin Laden". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
Government offices
Preceded by
Stephen Kappes
CIA Deputy Director for Operations
November 2004 – October 13, 2005
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Initial Director
Director of the National Clandestine Service
October 13, 2005 – September 30, 2007
Succeeded by
Michael Sulick