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“It would have been a crime if it was being done to obstruct an investigation,” he said. “There are court cases ongoing, but there was no ongoing congressional investigations at that time. There were court cases, but as best as we can tell, those tapes were never part of a protective order.”

Mr. Rizzo did, however, say that Jose Rodriguez, the CIA clandestine officer who ordered the destruction of the tapes, “shouldn’t have done it.”

The CIA declined to comment for this article.