The Obama administration Monday rolled out its new policies for the interrogations and transfers of suspected terrorists, an announcement that comes the same day a court has ordered the release of an internal CIA investigation that critics say definitively proves the agency engaged in torture during the Bush administration.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has before him a recommendation from the Office of Professional Responsibility that he conduct a criminal investigation into some of those CIA interrogations.It is within Mr. Holder’s sole discretion whether to investigate these cases, all of which have been referred to the Justice Department during the Bush administration.
The new policies were announced just hours before the Justice Department was set to release a 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by the ACLU.
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“This is in many ways an old story,” CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in an email to employees Monday, which was obtained by The Washington Times. “The use of enhanced interrogation techniques, begun when our country was responding to the horrors of September 11th, ended in January. For the CIA now, the challenge is not the battles of yesterday, but those of today and tomorrow.”
Mr. Panetta continued, “It is there that we must work to enhance the safety of our country. That is the job the American people want us to do, and that is my responsibility as the current Director of the CIA.”
The Obama administration announced its new policy during a conference call with reporters in which officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
The administration officials said the new policies takes control of interrogations from the CIA and puts them under the control of the White House’s National Security Council.
The new policy calls for the creation of what the administration is calling the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, of HIG, which will consist of military, intelligence-community and law enforcement personnel. The CIA will be part of that group, which will be housed at the FBI, the administration officials said.
The HIG will limit its interrogation techniques to what is allowed by the Army Field Manual. The Bush administration made use of techniques, such as waterboarding, which stimulates drowning, that were not allowed by that manual.
The officials also said the administration will also undertake scientific study to improve interrogation techniques.
“I think its more of a strategic approach and less of an ad-hoc approach in interrogations,” one official said during the conference call.
The administration said that it also has new policies regarding transferring suspected terrorists between countries. The new policies, which were not described in great detail, include greater involvement by the State Department than under the Bush administration, to make sure suspected terrorists are not sent to countries where they may be tortured.
The new policies come from task forces that President Obama formed shortly after he took office January.
• Ben Conery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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