FORMER CIA director Porter Goss agreed with a 2005 decision to destroy interrogation videos showing waterboarding, but nobody told White House counsel Harriet Miers, who was "livid" on finding out, according to internal CIA e-mails.
The documents, released yesterday, show that, despite Mr Goss's apparent agreement, officials were worried that they had acted improperly, foreshadowing a controversy that remains under FBI investigation.
The videos showed CIA interrogators using the simulated drowning technique on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah. They did not follow procedures authorised by the Bush administration.
Jose Rodriguez, the CIA's top clandestine officer, was worried the 92 tapes would be "devastating" if they ever surfaced. He told Mr Goss and others he "felt it was extremely important to destroy the tapes and that if there was any heat, he would take it," according to a 2005 e-mail. Mr Goss laughed, according to the e-mail, and said he'd be the one to take the heat. The e-mail then states: "PG, however, agreed with the decision."
The author's name is blacked out. The e-mail amounts to an after-the-fact summary and does not prove Mr Goss approved the destruction of the tapes. Officials have said he did not, and was angry to find out about it. Mr Rodriguez's lawyer disputes that.
The e-mails were released by the US Justice Department under a freedom of information act request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
"Rizzo is clearly upset because he was on the hook to notify Harriet Miers of the status of the tapes because it was she who had asked to be advised before any action was taken," reads a November 2005 e-mail from an unidentified CIA officer to the agency's No3 official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo. "Apparently, Rizzo called Harriet this afternoon and she was livid."
Ms Miers' predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, and David Addington, the chief of staff for then vice-president Dick Cheney, had told CIA lawyers in 2004 not to destroy the tapes. A year later, Mr Rodriguez sent a memo approving the destruction.
It is unclear who told Mr Rodriguez that, but a subsequent e-mail suggests that either someone lied to him or that he lied about having received approval.
Years later, prosecutor John Durham is still investigating whether a crime was committed. ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner said: "These documents provide further evidence that senior CIA officials were willing to risk being prosecuted for obstruction of justice in order to avoid being prosecuted for torture."