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February 28, 2009

"Truth Commission" a Go

The Church Committee destroyed the CIA's operations division for... well, forever. Let's see if we can't hit that mark again.

The 'fact-finding' effort will seek details on secret prisons and interrogation methods -- but will not aim to determine if CIA officials broke laws, legislative sources say.

By Greg Miller
February 27, 2009

Reporting from Washington - The Senate Intelligence Committee is preparing to launch an investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation programs under President George W. Bush, setting the stage for a sweeping examination of some of most secretive and controversial operations in recent agency history.

The inquiry is aimed at uncovering new information on the origins of the programs as well as scrutinizing how they were executed -- including the conditions at clandestine CIA prison sites and the interrogation regimens used to break Al Qaeda suspects, according to Senate aides familiar with the investigation plans.

Officials said the inquiry was not designed to determine whether CIA officials broke laws. "The purpose here is to do fact-finding in order to learn lessons from the programs and see if there are recommendations to be made for detention and interrogations in the future," said a senior Senate aide, who like others described the plan on condition of anonymity because it had not been made public.

...

The investigation also could draw comparisons to the special Senate committee formed to investigate the CIA in 1975 and headed by Sen. Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat. Revelations by the Church Committee led to greater congressional oversight and legislation restricting intelligence activities.

The terms and scope of the new inquiry still were being negotiated by members of the committee and senior staffers Thursday. The senior aide said that the committee had no short-term plans to hold public hearings, and that it was not clear whether the panel would release its final report to the public.

The inquiry, which could take a year or more to complete, means the CIA will once again be the target of intense congressional scrutiny at a time when it is engaged in two wars and its ongoing pursuit of Al Qaeda.

...

During the Bush administration, the agency was often able to safeguard many of those secrets. Lawmakers have never been told the locations of the CIA's secret prisons overseas, for example.

I'd like to point out this is an irrelevant detail as far as lawmakers are concerned. If you know the prisons exist and what is being done there and who is being held, what does it matter as far as a lawmaker where the site is?

The Bush Administration has kept this secret for diplomatic reasons -- the countries allowing us to keep sites on their soil do so at great risk to themselves. They face possible uproar from their citizens, strained relations with other countries in a position to thwart their ambitions (as France can thwart Poland), and of course: actual reprisal from Al Qaeda.

Bush kept this secret because the countries demanded it and because he knew Senators would leak this information almost immediately. Which they will.

...

Panetta argued that CIA officers should not face prosecution if they were acting on orders in accordance with Bush administration legal opinions.

"I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals," Panetta said. "I think they did their job, they did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it."

News of the inquiry was greeted with concern among agency veterans.

"There is a good deal of investigation fatigue, and a feeling that the agency has become even more than before a piñata," said a former high-ranking CIA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The new investigation is likely to "stimulate more risk aversion," the former official said. "There's a potential cost to other operations down the road when the current administration says, 'We would like you to take this operation, it's been blessed by lawyers and briefed by Congress.' Why should we do anything anywhere near cutting-edge if down the road the next administration can decide to get back at their political opponents?"

...

The panel will also look at whether lawmakers were kept fully informed. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the committee, and others have said that the Bush administration improperly withheld information from Congress on the CIA's operations.

...

Senate investigators plan a similar line of inquiry, with a goal of assessing the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the CIA, including sleep deprivation and subjecting prisoners to cold temperatures.

Panetta's immediate predecessor as CIA chief, Michael V. Hayden, has defended the agency's use of such methods and argued that the agency should not be bound by Army Field Manual constraints.

Thanks to WilliamA.


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posted by Ace at 09:29 AM

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