Monday, January 19, 2009

CIA Head Defends Harsh Interrogations

There is one day until Jan. 20, 2009.

CIA Head Defends Harsh Interrogations

January 16, 2009

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - CIA Director Michael Hayden strenuously defended the effectiveness of the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques Thursday, only moments after Attorney General-designate Eric Holder said the use of waterboarding was torture.

Though U.S. officials say interrogators have not engaged in waterboarding in the past five years, Hayden said the coercive techniques and other harsh tactics were useful in the war on terror.

"These techniques worked," said Hayden, who is due to replaced by Leon Panetta as President-elect Obama's CIA director.

According to Hayden, the CIA held and interrogated fewer than 100 detainees at secret detention sites. Of those, a third were subjected to harsh techniques. Three of them, he acknowledged, were waterboarded.

"I am convinced that the program got the maximum amount of information, particularly out of that first generation of detainees. The Abu Zubaydahs, the Khalid Sheik Muhammeds," Hayden said referring to top al-Qaida operatives who were detained and questioned with harsh techniques. "I just can't conceive of any other way, given their character, given their commitment to what it is they do."

Whether waterboarding is torture is "an uninteresting question for the CIA," Hayden told reporters at CIA headquarters Thursday. "We don't do that. We haven't done it since March 2003, and we have no intent to do it."

Hayden banned waterboarding from CIA interrogations in 2006. He has acknowledged that the agency used the technique, a form of simulated drowning, on three prisoners in 2002 and 2003.

It was just one of the CIA's so-called enhanced interrogation techniques approved by the White House and Justice Department after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for questioning alleged terrorists who the administration feared were plotting a follow-up attack.

"The agency did none of this out of enthusiasm," Hayden said. "It did it out of duty and it did it with the best legal advice it had."

Holder's opinion that waterboarding is torture complicates an already complex legal environment for U.S. prosecutions of alleged terrorists.

The top official overseeing the military commissions set up by the Bush administration to prosecute them told The Washington Post this week that she decided not to send to trial the case of a detainee being held at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because she believed he was tortured by a combination of harsh, albeit approved, techniques by his U.S. military captors.

Aides to President-elect Barack Obama say he intends to close Guantanamo and to rein in CIA interrogations and detainee operations.

Hayden said he was "very heartened" by Obama's statements that he is "looking forward" rather than backward when it comes to the CIA's more controversial programs, interpreting that to mean there won't be an effort in the new administration to find and punish CIA officers who carried out those programs.

Hayden said Thursday that everything the CIA did was legal and approved by the Justice Department.

He warned that any effort to hold agency employees accountable, retroactively, for President George W. Bush's legally sanctioned intelligence programs could severely damage future intelligence gathering.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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