Panetta Issues Some Interrogation Clarification « The Washington Independent
CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote to Congress yesterday about some detention and interrogation issues, and he reiterated the gist of his letter to agency employees. Check it out here. Daphne will be interested to read that Panetta reiterated that CIA officials who engaged in abusive interrogations at the behest of the Bush administration “should not be investigated, let alone punished,” since that’s what “fairness and wisdom require.”
To focus on two other aspects of the letter. First:
CIA officers, whose knowledge of terrorist organizations is second to none, will continue to conduct debriefings using a dialog style of questioning that is fully consistent with the interrogation approaches authorized and listed in the Army Field Manual. CIA officers do not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any inappropriate behavior or allegations of abuse. That holds true whether a suspect is in the custody of an American partner or a foreign liaison service.
It’s noteworthy that Panetta is explicitly describe a “dialog” based interrogation style. Usually intelligence officials and experts who oppose torture simply talk about “non-coercive” techniques, while experienced interrogators favor an iterative approach to build rapport with an interrogation subject. Panetta appears to be embracing that. Next thing:
CIA retains the authority to detain individuals on a short-term transitory basis. None have occurred since I have become Director. We anticipate that we would quickly turn over any person in our custody to U.S. military authorities or to their country of jurisdiction, depending on the situation.
In January, I said to look for this as the interrogation/detention policy review process unfolds over the next year. What does “short term” mean specifically? We don’t get an answer here, though we do learn that there haven’t been any new “transitory” terrorist captures by CIA since Panetta became director. (Unsure if that’s something to brag about, but still.) It’s been clear since President Obama issued his detention and interrogation guidelines in January that CIA was going to get out of the detention business, acting as a way-station to hold suspected terrorists during the point-of-capture but then to relinquish custody to a different authority. But how to define that time period? Days? Hours?
There are a cluster of practical, political and humanitarian questions at work: how fast can a CIA team that’s captured a detainee actually transfer that person to a capable authority without compromising operational security? Intelligence is perishable, so how much time should CIA interrogators get with a detainee for a “dialog” interrogation before the custody transfer takes place? Can CIA interrogators question a detainee in another agency’s custody? How can the International Committee of the Red Cross actually have access to detainees in “short-term” CIA custody? And how can foreign governments and citizens be confident that the CIA is playing by its new rules consistently?