WASHINGTON – The CIA official who gave the command to destroy interrogation videotapes apparently acted against the direction of his superiors, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said Wednesday.
"It appears he hadn't gotten authority from anyone," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., speaking to reporters after the first day of closed testimony in the committee's investigation. "It appears he got direction to make sure the tapes were not destroyed."
Hoekstra said that raises the troubling prospect that there's a thread of unaccountability in the spy culture.
"I believe there are parts of the intelligence community that don't believe they are accountable to Congress and may not be accountable to their own superiors in the intelligence community, and that's why it's a problem," he said.
Hoekstra spoke after the CIA's acting general counsel, John Rizzo, testified behind closed doors for nearly four hours as the first witness in what committee officials have said will be a long investigation.
"I told the truth," Rizzo said in a brief appearance before reporters.
The man at the center of the controversy, Jose Rodriguez, had been scheduled to appear Wednesday, but his demand for immunity delayed his testimony. Rodriguez was the head of the CIA's National Clandestine Service, the CIA branch that oversees spying operations and interrogations. He gave the order to destroy the tapes in November 2005.
The tapes, made in 2002, showed the harsh interrogation by CIA officers of two alleged al-Qaida terrorists, both of whom are known to have undergone waterboarding, which gives the subject the sensation of drowning.
The White House approved waterboarding and other "enhanced" techniques in 2002 for prisoners deemed resistant to conventional interrogation. The CIA is known to have waterboarded three prisoners and has not used the technique since 2003. CIA Director Michael Hayden prohibited it in 2006.