Isikoff to Congress: Make Sure You Ask for the Negroponte Memo

For all his faults, Michael Isikoff is certainly a reliable journalist through whom people can launder leaks. Take his story (with Hosenball) today (h/t bmaz). Note the grammar of these first two paragraphs:

In the summer of 2005, then CIA director Porter Goss met with then national intelligence director John Negroponte to discuss a highly sensitive matter: what to do about the existence of videotapes documenting the use of controversial interrogation methods, apparently includ­ing waterboarding, on two key Al Qaeda suspects. The tapes were eventually de­stroyed, and congressional investigators are now trying to piece together an extensive paper trail documenting how and why it happened.

One crucial document they’ll surely want to examine: a memo written after the meeting between Goss and Negroponte, which records that Negroponte strongly advised against destroying the tapes, according to two people close to the investigation, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive matter. The memo is so far the only known documentation that a senior intel official warned that the tapes should not be destroyed. Spokespeople for the CIA and the intel czar’s office declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations. [my emphasis]

This article is framed in terms of what Congressional investigators want, not in terms of what the DOJ investigation is finding. Indeed, the leak about the Negroponte memo appears to come from two people involved in the investigation in some manner–whatever that investigation may be–who want to make sure news of this memo comes out and who seem to have little faith that news of Negroponte’s clear instructions to Goss will come out otherwise.

Also, note the curious no comment in this paragraph. "Spokespeople for the CIA and the intel czar’s office." You might assume, forgetting the last year of jostling within the Bush Administration, that it means that Isikoff called Negroponte’s office and got a no comment. But while Negroponte was "intel czar" when he wrote this memo, he’s not now; he’s at State running things for Condi. So unless Isikoff forgot all these details, I’d suggest this article only appears to record a "no comment" from Negroponte, and it certainly doesn’t exclude a pretty big comment from him. As in, "Mikey, I’d like you to write about this memo I wrote to Porter, because I’m afraid it’s getting buried in the DOJ investigation."

There’s another candidate to be one of Isikoff’s sources. The article also includes a clear signal from the masterful press manipulator, Bob Bennett, that he intends to advise his client John Jose Rodriguez to plead the Fifth.

Bennett told NEWSWEEK that his client had been "a dedicated and loy­al public servant for 31 years" and "has done nothing wrong." But he warned that Rodriguez may refuse to cooperate with investigators if he concludes that the probes are a "witch hunt." "I don’t want him to become a scapegoat."

In case you missed it, Bennett uses the same phrase Monica Goodling’s lawyer, John Dowd, used, "witch hunts," just before he snookered Congress into offering her immunity for a bunch of stuff that Congress already had evidence she was doing. As a reminder, Monica said almost nothing that incriminated Rove or Harriet and only sort of incriminated AGAG. But she managed to get herself immunity for "crossing the line" and politicizing DOJ’s hiring practices. Bennett’s use of precisely same language as Monica’s lawyer may be no accident.

Now, as I said, Bennett is clearly sending a message that Rodriguez will invoke the Fifth pretty readily. Is it possible, though, that Rodriguez knows about this memo, too? That is, is it possible that Bennett (who has been using leaks as a primary legal tool since at least Iran-Contra) is trying to trade the Negroponte memo–or at least a description of it–for immunity for his client?

Which is, frankly, about the only reason Michael Mukasey is correct in asking the House Intelligence Committee to back off. Crazy Pete Hoekstra is pretty close to Porter Goss, who appears to know more about the destruction of the torture tapes than he is letting on. And I could see Hoekstra doing the same favors–of impeding an investigation by manipulating the less than crafty chair of the House Intelligence Committee–that Dick Cheney did when he was in the same position during Iran-Contra. In other words, I’m not sure we can trust Crazy Pete to want to get to the bottom of this, and if HPSCI starts offering immunity as incautiously as they did with Monica, then I worry their investigation will stall any real investigation by DOJ–if it exists.

Update: Rodriguez’ first name corrected per rxbusa

  1. MadDog says:

    Bennett told NEWSWEEK that his client had been “a dedicated and loy­al public servant for 31 years” and “has done nothing wrong.” But he warned that Rodriguez may refuse to cooperate with investigators if he concludes that the probes are a “witch hunt.” “I don’t want him to become a scapegoat.”

    The bolded part “seems” to imply to me that “higher-ups” would be the ones who would be doing the scapegoating of J-Rod.

    And if so, who are those higher-ups? J-Rod as DDO was the top dog in the Clandestine Services, so there are only 2 or 3 additional “higher-ups” at the CIA.

    And from that point on, it is the top few executives at the ODNI and the White House.

    My point is mainly that “juniors” don’t “scapegoat” their “seniors”. Tis the other way around.

  2. Quzi says:

    Yes, it does echo the Goodling defense…”to trade the Negroponte memo…for immunity for his client?”

    And the problem with Congress is there are enough members in bed with the crooks running this country that they impede and obstruct every investigation that shows any glimmer of hope for justice! But I haven’t given up hope yet…

  3. bmaz says:

    Your point about Crazy Pete is an excellent one, and something I had not thought about. But the committees can’t go to far on the immunity granting front without the concurrence of the DOJ and court; of course, that sure doesn’t mean that Hoekstra couldn’t still foul things up big time.

      • bmaz says:

        And they do want things fouled up on this one I should think, because their stupid butts are right in the middle of the pie in about twenty different ways. That is exactly why we need a special prosecutor. Anybody who thinks they, and Mukasey, don’t have a conflict position is nuts (with all due respect to nolo, who I don’t think is nuts and I admire a lot).

        • MadDog says:

          rxbusa and you make a good point that I had not considered before.

          What if the Mukasey DOJ congressional slapdown is merely a ploy to antagonize Congresscritters into going way, way overboard and making any possible prosecution effort untenable?

          Red flag in hand, Mukasey waves to Congressional bull.

  4. emptywheel says:

    Oh, they’ve made it pretty clear they intend to keep investigating, which might be a good thing.

    Thing is, aside from an independent prosecutor, I don’t know WHO I trust to investigate this. I’m happy to let the judges ask for clarification (and, if need be, hold the CIA in contempt). But I have no read on Reyes, really, and know Crazy Pete is not trustworthy and usually is in the bag. Obviously, Jello Jay is likely to just get rolled by Kit Bond, as is his wont. Pat Leahy seems to have backed down in response to Mukasey’s memo, and said he’d pursue this in normal oversight.

    But it’s clear DOJ shouldn’t be investigating it.

  5. Richmond says:

    I don’t remember 15 years ago that it was SO HARD to read a newspaper article accurately. Now (thanks EW) we need a special English language interpretor of facts presented (and left out) and the grammar used to articulate the various points. Now, thanks to Michael Gordon, Judith Miller and the neo-cons, the writer (journalist?) of a piece is important to the underlying meaning as are the facts themselves. No wonder they are worried about the threat of the web!

    • TheraP says:

      This is exactly the way that people in police states have long read newspapers. This is the proof of where we are.

    • TheraP says:

      If you’ve never read “Cancer Ward” by Solzhenizten, there is a lot of that. How people figure out what’s going on by little clues, presence or absence of certain things, where they are placed in the paper and so on. Same thing here.

      And I must say I am fascinated by EW’s ability to do that…. makes me wonder where she acquired such abilities. (just my schtick… no need for pursuing this further)

      • emptywheel says:

        My PhD involved reading a LOT of newspapers from authoritarian states, along with the blog-like essays written by people doing this same kind of thing.

        I did a lot on Ludik Vaculik, for example.

        • TheraP says:

          Thanks! And the psychologist in me thinks… hmmmm, what prompted that choice of study….

          Very funny thing here. Someone I know, who was a leftist, ended up in military intelligence during military service (somewhere) getting access, on a daily basis to all kinds of newspapers not available (somewhere, then) and other military intelligence stuff. And got to write reports on it! So funny!!!

          For info on police states, nothing beats Solzhenitzen in my book!

    • monzie says:

      Richmond – right on! I have copied your comment for friends trying to understand today’s MSM. And check out today’s Seattle Times for a good article, “Mainstream Media Must Change Their Ways,” by David Domke, U of Washington professor of communications and colleague Elizabeth Hindman, Washington State U. Excellent paragraph on blogs.

      Domke is author of “The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America.” Hindman wrote “Rights vs. Responsibilities: The Supreme Court and the Media.”

  6. Richmond says:

    jello because he can’t hold a position if his life depends on it now. Like jello he wiggles every which way.

    • TheraP says:

      Not sure of the next step. I think it’s already happened. Some time ago my husband was remarking on the “self-censorship” in US papers. There is no need for censorship if the press is already doing that for them. (He saw that in Franco Spain.)

  7. selise says:

    items one and two on my christmas wish list. new chairs for the ssci and hpsci – i especially like ew’s suggestion: feingold and holt.

  8. Rayne says:

    So my guess yesterday might still be in play, re: immunity offerings…why else would Bennett play his card now, laying it down with the same damned dog whistle he’s used before, unless he was actively seeking immunity right now, or knew that Crazy/Slippery Pete and Co. were offering up the same right now? Seems to me there’s another piece missing that dictates the timing of this article.

    And then there’s the Mukasey wild card; I imagine the White House feeling as exasperated by this unknown quantity as well, which might be a good thing.

    (I hate this, feeling like we have moved to the Soviet Union, where no one can be trusted if they have not been well and truly bought. It’s been giving me nightmares.)

    • TheraP says:

      Not sure “why now” but I was amazed to see the topic of the tapes placed first, I think, on ABC news last night. This must be heating up. And then you’ve got Whitehouse’s speech… just some thoughts.

  9. emptywheel says:

    I’m obviously not doing well with names today.

    He is an author, a master of the feuilleton form. He was one of the people who started the samizdat circulation in the 1970s in Czechoslovakia. He was quite good at reading through propaganda.

    • bmaz says:

      EW has not done such a post; however, I don’t think we really know yet what the effect is going to be. The moves in the right direction have been made, but there is no set and good plan as to how to evaluate and alter the sentences on cases where the defendant is already in prison. I will watch my language in how I describe this; but suffice it to say it will be a royal mess. Already state and local politicians and conservative concern trolls are barking about “putting criminals back on the street in masses”. So, all we know right now is that it is permissible to alter sentences; we don’t know how, when or how much that will, in fact, be done.

      • TheraP says:

        Here’s a thought I had about that. Are they getting ready for trials of the criminals now in power? And ahead of time… making room for appeals regarding “sentences.” I may be off-base, but that was my thought at the time: How does this connect with our desire to see these criminals behind bars?

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t think they are related. The issue of the disparate treatment of crack vis a vis powder cocaine, and the shocking bias it spells against minority communities, has been around for a long time and well before Bush came on the scene. There are some other sentencing cases that have altered the strict structure of the US Federal Sentencing Guidelines as well. For all the talk about the guidelines, they were a radical change in sentencing, and have only been if effect about 20 years; so they are still being sorted out on numerous fronts, and this is one of them.

  10. radiofreewill says:

    I’m not sure we should be very optimistic on getting to the bottom of the supposedly destroyed Torture Tapes. The precedent for that lack of optimism is the Tillman Investigation – what ever happened to the General that went AWOL rather than explaining the handling of Tillman?

    Tillman was Killed and it was covered-up – allegedly, Bush made ‘hero’ speeches on Tillman for weeks after knowing the truth.

    Zubaydah was Tortured and it was covered-up – and, some say, Bush had ‘viewed’ the Tapes in question, despite saying he had only heard of the Tapes a couple of weeks ago.

    What is Truth with BushCo?

  11. pdaly says:

    Sorry to hear your travel was affected by the snowstorm, emptywheel.

    I’ve been clicking on ads at this site hoping it helps to bring in revenue for you and FDL. Found and purchased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store a ‘Knight’ light for my young nephews.

    I hope all these leaks are an indication that some republicans are running scared. I found a perfect Christmas gift for them, although at They sell nightlights from real aspen leaves
    – providing reassurance for when the times are dark and scary.

      • pdaly says:

        Yes, that would be funny.

        But for me to buy one, you and/or FDL would have to mark them with some sort of recognizeable site badging; otherwise staring at the aspen leaf in the dead of night I fear I’d fall asleep with visions of Judy and Libby dancing (?) in my head.

        Or maybe the packaging could come with an insert: Christy emploring us to shine some light on this, or you reminding everyon to see beyond the surface of things (in case anyone has not seen this night light, only the veins are left, but provide the outline of the leaf).

  12. BayStateLibrul says:

    The first clue, in my opinion, that there is a giant coverup is when
    they said NO to the Special Prosecutor.
    A no vote = cover-up and more fuckery…
    They don’t want the truth.
    The only thing that keeps me going is the Pats and Sox, and now the

  13. Neil says:


    The Celtics routed Toronto in Totonto today, same game time as the Pats. I checked on the Celtics during the teevee commercials …until I fell asleep in the 3rd quarter and missed the end of both games. zzzz