No Way Jose Makes the Right Call
Pretend for a second you are Jose Rodriguez, Jr., the former CIA official who, early on in the Tapegate scandal, has been fingered (rightly or wrongly) as a culprit behind the destruction of interrogation videotapes. You know the Justice Department has initiated a criminal proceeding on the matter. You know you have a date with a Congressional committee hot to make news at your expense. Wouldn't you, too, lawyer up and then exercise your constitutional right to remain silent?
You know you would. I would, too. Which is why the news that Rodriguez is doing precisely what you and I would do should come as no surprise to anyone, including the investigators and legislators who are gunning for him. In fact, I'm surprised Team Rodriguez didn't go public even earlier with this strategy since it "forks" his pursuers into making some fairly substantial and, in many ways, mutually exclusive choices.
For example, if the House Intelligence Committee were to grant Rodriguez immunity, it would be difficult for the Mukasey Justice Department to indict and convict him following its investigation. Nothing Rodriguez said before the committee could be used against him at a trial, if he ever went to trial. This is precisely why the attorney general asked the committee to hold off on its hearing -- and its immunity-granting-spree -- until after his investigation is concluded.
So what do we want here? Do we want fast answers at the potential expense of justice? Or do we want to privately explore the contours of Tapegate within the contours of a criminal case before we open the doors to public evaluation before Congress? It's not a trick question. If we choose the criminal investigation, we can always revert later to immunity for Rodriguez and his CIA pals. But if we choose immunity, we probably can't go back to the possiblity of criminal charges.
I don't blame Rodriguez for pushing his pursuers into this choice. I don't blame Mukasey for wanting to go first. And I await word on what the rocket scientists on the House Intelligence Committee decide to do with this totally expected wrinkle.
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