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Subpoena of CIA officials threatened

Justice Dept. action in tape destruction probe angers panel chairman.

December 20, 2007|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, chafing at the Justice Department's handling of a probe into missing CIA interrogation tapes, threatened Wednesday to subpoena two top CIA officials to jump-start the panel's own investigation.

The department, which is conducting a criminal inquiry with the CIA inspector general into revelations that a CIA official destroyed videotapes of two terrorism suspects being interrogated in 2005, asked the panel last week to defer its inquiry.

Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) has called a hearing for Jan. 16. He said he expected testimony from both acting CIA general counsel John Rizzo and Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the former head of the agency's operations branch, who authorized destroying the tapes.

Congressional leaders are angry because, they say, the administration did not keep them fully informed about the tapes at a time when they were investigating coercive interrogation techniques used after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Seeking to defuse the growing controversy, the Justice Department said late Wednesday that it had never advised the CIA not to cooperate with the committee, and that it hoped both investigations would proceed through "consultation and coordination," Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said.

Meanwhile, the deputy attorney general-designate told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that he would have counseled the CIA to preserve the tapes.

Mark Filip, a U.S. district judge in Chicago who has been nominated by Bush to be the department's second-ranking official, said at his confirmation hearing that he would make sure that the department was complying with any legal orders potentially covering the tapes.

"It might be the better practice to keep those in any event, given the interest in the subject matter that was on the tapes," he said.

A federal judge in Washington has set a Friday hearing to explore whether, in destroying the tapes, the U.S. violated an order he issued in a case concerning a group of alleged terrorists being detained at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison.

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rick.schmitt@latimes.com

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