(CNN)The Central Intelligence Agency has declassified an internal memo that absolves Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s nominee for CIA director, of responsibility for destroying videotapes showing the waterboarding of terrorism suspects in 2005, an issue that’s been a key sticking point for senators weighing her confirmation.
The memo, first reported by The Associated Press and CBS News, is the conclusion of a “disciplinary review” conducted in 2011 by former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell that scrutinized the activities of the former clandestine chief Jose Rodriguez and Haspel, who served as his chief of staff. It followed a Justice Department review of the incident, in which a special prosecutor tapped to investigate the matter did not bring charges against anyone involved.
After interviews with top legal figures at the agency, Rodriguez, Haspel and others, along with a review of documents and phone calls placed at the time, Morell decided Haspel had done nothing wrong.
“Ms. Haspel did not destroy the tapes, she did not oversee the destruction of the tapes, and she did not order the destruction of the tapes. She drafted a cable, under instruction from her boss, Mr. Rodriguez, that he sent, under his name and authority, ordering that the tapes be destroyed. Mr. Rodriguez ordered the destruction of the tapes, not Ms. Haspel,” Morell said in a statement to CNN.
Additionally, Morell tells CNN, his memo was forwarded to the White House and Congress at the time, neither of which had any follow-up questions.
“At the request of members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and consistent with its commitment to be as transparent as possible, CIA has declassified, with limited redactions, the 2011 disciplinary review memorandum relating to CIA’s destruction of tapes,” CIA spokesperson Dean Boyd wrote in a statement.
Rodriguez himself has “consistently taken full responsibility for the destruction of interrogation tapes from the very beginning,” he wrote in a blog post in April. However, given new scrutiny from Capitol Hill, he claims he was “under the impression that the chain of command did not think it was illegal to destroy the tapes but that no one wanted to make the decision at the time.”
Originally Posted: Updated 8:22 PM ET, Fri April 20, 2018
By Jenna McLaughlin and Jeremy Herb, CNN