Obama ends Bush-era interrogation tactics, even for CIA

A special prosecutor is appointed to investigate interrogation abuses alleged to have occurred after 9/11.

David Goldman/AP/FILE
Army Private First Class Todd Ruiz keeps guard of a detainee at Combat Outpost Tangi in Afghanistan's Wardak Province, Aug. 18.

The Obama administration has decided to jettison the controversial harsh interrogation tactics favored by President Bush and is instead pledging to rely on less-coercive techniques traditionally used by US military and law enforcement officials.

The action stems from a recommendation adopted Monday from a high-level task force set up to develop new antiterror policies under President Obama.

The action came as Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to investigate alleged interrogation abuses during the Bush administration.

Under the new Obama plan, all interrogations – including those carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency – must be conducted in full compliance with the US Army Field Manual.

The move appears to bring to a conclusive end the US government’s use of highly painful and coercive interrogation methods such as waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation, among others.

Former President Bush defended the use of such “enhanced interrogation methods” by saying they produced actionable intelligence that saved American lives in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In contrast, Obama administration officials suggest that such coercive methods may not be as effective as advertised during the Bush administration. Instead of relying on coercion, fear, and pain, the administration is focusing on the experience and expertise of successful interrogators. Many interrogators say the most effective intelligence is often gained through efforts to establish rapport with the detainee.

The White House is setting up a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group that would assemble the nation’s most effective and experienced interrogators into a kind of rapid deployment force. The group will be run out of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and report to the White House’s National Security Council. It would include highly mobile teams of interrogators, analysts, subject-matter experts, and linguists available to travel around the world to interrogate suspected high-value terrorists.

The principle function of the group would be to gather intelligence, officials say, rather than to gather evidence in a criminal trial.

In announcing the task force’s conclusions, Attorney General Holder attempted to answer critics who have suggested less coercive interrogation policies might prove ineffective and leave the US vulnerable to future terror attacks.

“There is no tension between strengthening our national security and meeting our commitments to the rule of law,” Mr. Holder said. “These new policies will accomplish both.”

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