Saturday, September 19, 2009

Former Central Intelligence Agency Directors Call For End to Interrogation Probe by Justice Department

Saturday, September 19, 2009
00:19 Mecca time, 21:19 GMT

Call for US interrogation probe end

Holder has ordered a fresh investigation into the scope of interrogations during the Bush era

Seven former directors of the US Central Intelligence Agency have urged the president to abandon a criminal investigation into interrogation techniques used against terror suspects during the Bush administration.

The ex-heads of the CIA, who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents, sent a letter to Barack Obama on Friday calling for the investigation to be cancelled.

Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, said last week that he was appointing an independent investigator to assess whether CIA interrogations had gone beyond guidelines set by the Bush administration.

While George W Bush was in office, the US justice department prosecuted one case after an investigation into CIA interrogation techniques.

David Passaro, a CIA contractor, was convicted and sentenced to eight years for beating an Afghan detainee in 2007. The detainee later died.

'Investigations undermined'

"If criminal investigations closed by career prosecutors during one administration can so easily be reopened at the direction of political appointees in the next, declinations of prosecution will be rendered meaningless," the former CIA directors said in their letter to the White House.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The seven former directors include Michael Hayden, Porter Goss and George Tenet, who served under Bush.

John Deutch and James Woolsey, who worked for Bill Clinton; William Webster, who served under George HW Bush; and James Schlesinger, who ran the agency under Richard Nixon, are also signatories to the letter.

The ex-directors said that Obama should cancel Holder's decision to reopen the investigation of interrogations conducted by CIA staff after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the CIA, said that it the agency is co-operating with the justice department review but that it will defend its agents.

"The (CIA) director has stood up for those who followed legal guidance on interrogation, and he will continue to do so," Gimigliano said.

Panetta opposed

The former directors said that criminal investigations against CIA staff could discourage officers from conducing aggressive intelligence work that they argue is needed to counter terrorism.

Foreign governments may also be less likely to grant intelligence findings to the CIA in future if the investigations go ahead, they said.

"As a result of the zeal on the part of some to uncover every action taken in the post-9/11 period, many countries may decide that they can no longer safely share intelligence or cooperate with us on future counter-terrorist operations," the letter said.

"They simply cannot rely on our promises of secrecy."

Leon Panetta, the current CIA director, also opposes Holder’s order for an investigation, although he did not sign the letter to Obama.

"I think the reason I felt the way I did is because I don't believe there's a basis there for any kind of additional action," Panetta said earlier this week.

"My concern is ... that we don't get trapped by the past. My feeling is ultimately, we're going to be able to move on."

Source: Agencies

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