Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, December 10, 2007

An American Hero Behind The CIA Tape Scandal

At the middle of the tempest over the destroyed CIA tapes of interrogation of global jihad leaders is Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., a man I feel I've come to know in recent weeks.

That's because I've been listening to George Criles' Charlie Wilson's War in my car and Rodriguez sounds like a brother in arms to Gust Avrakotos, the rough Greek kid with loads of street smarts from Pennsylvania who, despite himself, rose in the CIA's Clandestine Services until he became the leader of the CIA's war against the Russians in Afghanistan.

In a profile of Rodriguez by Mark Mazzetti in today's NYT, I see the same cloth being cut:
Mr. Rodriguez, who was born in Puerto Rico, spent much of his C.I.A. career working in Latin America, including in Mexico, and ascended in the 1990s to lead the agency’s Latin America division.

He is regarded both by admirers and detractors as blunt, effusive and fiercely loyal to his staff and friends. In 1997 he was removed from his position after he interceded on behalf of a friend who was arrested in the Dominican Republic, trying to get the Dominican government to drop the charges. A report by the C.I.A.’s inspector general criticized Mr. Rodriguez for a “remarkable lack of judgment.”

Despite the reprimand, Mr. Rodriguez continued to ascend through the agency. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he was appointed chief of staff of the Counterterrorist Center, which nearly overnight had ballooned to a staff of nearly 1,700 from 400.
Interestingly, Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and therefore the leader of any upcoming investigation into the matter, is a Rodriguez fan. Says the NYT:
At a conference in El Paso in mid-August, Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, heaped praise on a man whose exploits, he joked, had been the inspiration for the television show “24.”

From fast cars to fine wines, Mr. Reyes said, the appetites of the man, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., are the stuff of legend. Then turning serious, Mr. Reyes hailed Mr. Rodriguez’s three decades of undercover work for the Central Intelligence Agency, where he recently stepped down as head of its clandestine service, and called Mr. Rodriguez an “American hero.”
Reyes will now control the interrogation of this American hero.

The mindset of Rodriguez is impossible for we outsiders to gauge. We can assume much: That he would defend the agency, that he would be a man of honor who would bend but not break rules, that he would put the safety of America far ahead of the rights of the people his program were interrogating, and certainly ahead of himself.

As such, he could easily see an honorable career consumed by the Great American Scapegoat Quest.

Reyes issued a statement, "I'm not looking for scapegoats."

I'm sure Rodriguez is savvy enough after decades in the Clandestine Services to not find much comfort in that statement.

hat-tip: Real Clear Politics

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