Reliable Security Information

CIA Probe and the Torture Debate

The decision by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to appoint a special prosecutor to review past CIA interrogations revives robust debate over whether such a move is healthy or harmful to the United States in its counterterrorism efforts. In his statement explaining why a preliminary review was warranted, Holder took pains to note that it should not be seen as broad criticism of the intelligence community. At the same time, the release of a heavily redacted 2004 report (PDF) from the CIA's Inspector General underscored what many see as troubling and possibly unlawful behavior by some intelligence operatives in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The report details what it called "unauthorized, undocumented, and inhumane" interrogation tactics, including the use of guns, power drills, rifle butts, choking and threats to kill prisoners' children.

Still, the Los Angeles Times says U.S. President Barack Obama will face major challenges as a result of the investigation's launch, noting that Obama had already stated his desire to avoid just such a probe. He is already facing charges from the political left that the announced investigation is too feeble in scope and from the right that his attorney general is being overzealous.

Doug Bandow, senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, says the investigation needs to be far-reaching to help remove the taint (Huffington Post) to the country's reputation of what he called torture practices. David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center writes that a comprehensive probe is needed, "including those all the way up the chain of command who hold ultimate responsibility for launching us on a path of torture." But the Wall Street Journaleditorializes that Holder's moves could threaten the country's ability to confront terrorists. And...

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