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Former FBI and DOD Interrogators Support Holder’s CIA Probe, and Want More

Although there is already criticism of Attorney General Erc Holder’s planned investigation of CIA interrogators, it’s worth noting that former senior FBI and Defense Department interrogators support the criminal probe — and also want a more thorough investigation.

As I noted earlier, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others has criticized the probe for its narrow focus on low-level interrogators who violated the CIA guidelines, approved by the Justice Department. (Although, as Spencer notes, the Justice Department’s announcement does not rule out any particular course of investigation or prosecution.) Many critics of the Bush administration’s tactics want a broader investigation of the lawyers and policymakers who sanctioned the torture and systematic abuse of detainees as well.

But the choice isn’t necessarily one or the other, say three former senior government interrogators.

In a letter sent on Friday to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, former FBI official Jack Cloonan, and Defense Department interrogators Steven Kleinman and Matthew Alexander, wrote that “If the Attorney General takes this important step forward, it will reaffirm the enduring power of our system of checks and balances. … As former FBI interrogator, former military interrogator and career intelligence officer, we can attest that our law enforcement

agencies take seriously their obligation to uniformly enforce U.S. laws. To ignore evidence of criminal wrongdoing would incentivize future breaches of law.”

But it’s not enough, they continue.

Prosecutions of individuals who violated anti-torture statutes alone, however, will not prevent policy makers from making similar mistakes in the future. At the heart of the policy decisions buttressing interrogators’ use of torture and cruelty lay closed processes that have yet to be scrutinized with cool heads and wise counsel. Instead of putting in place the best policies for protecting American lives, policy makers ignored the advice of experienced interrogators, counterterrorism experts and respected military leaders who warned that using torture and cruelty would be ineffective and counter-productive. The path we chose came with heavy costs. Key allies, in some instances, refused to share needed intelligence, terrorists attacks increased world wide, and al Qaeda and likeminded groups recruited a new generation of Jihadists. A nonpartisan, independent commission with subpoena power should assess the deeply flawed policy making framework behind the decision to permit torture and cruelty. Our system of checks and balances is designed to produce sound policy decisions which advance our strategic interests and are in accordance with our core values of due process.

That system of checks and balances broke down during the Bush administration, and only an independent commission can assess how that happened and make recommendations to keep it from happening again, the interrogators wrote.

We ask you to urge President Obama to appoint a nonpartisan commission not to look backward but to provide recommendations for the future. Reviewing our policies and actions concerning detention and treatment of detainees after 9/11 will strengthen our system of checks and balances so that when faced with the next challenge, we get it right.

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