Leon Edward Panetta, the new director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said yesterday in a message to CIA employees that the agency would shut down its remaining secret prisons overseas, The New York Times reports.
Secret CIA prisons, or “black sites”, had become one of the more controversial tactics used by the George W. Bush administration in its counterterrorism strategy. Three prisoners at CIA prisons were famously subjected to “waterboarding” in 2002 and 2003, and a report by the International Red Cross released this week detailed the treatment of fourteen prisoners at the facilities and called them “inhuman” .
Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon E. Panetta on the CIA’s Interrogation Policy and Contracts
April 9, 2009
As you know, there is continuing media and congressional interest in reviewing past rendition, detention, and interrogation activities that took place dating back to 2002. I have also been asked about contract interrogators and detention facilities. Today, I sent a letter to our Congressional oversight committees outlining the Agency’s current policy regarding interrogation of captured terrorists, including the policy on the use of contractors in the process.
CIA’s aggressive global pursuit of al-Qaida and its affiliates continues undiminished. Agency officers are working tirelessly – and successfully – to disrupt operations in strict accord with the President’s Executive Order of January 22, 2009, concerning detention and interrogation.
CIA officers, whose knowledge of terrorist organizations is second to none, will continue to conduct debriefings using a dialog style of questioning that is fully consistent with the interrogation approaches authorized and listed in the Army Field Manual. CIA officers do not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any inappropriate behavior or allegations of abuse. That holds true whether a suspect is in the custody of an American partner or a foreign liaison service.
Under the Executive Order, the CIA does not employ any of the enhanced interrogation techniques that were authorized by the Department of Justice from 2002 to 2009.
No CIA contractors will conduct interrogations.
CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites. I have directed our Agency personnel to take charge of the decommissioning process and have further directed that the contracts for site security be promptly terminated. It is estimated that our taking over site security will result in savings of up to $4 million.
CIA retains the authority to detain individuals on a short-term transitory basis. None have occurred since I have become Director. We anticipate that we would quickly turn over any person in our custody to U.S. military authorities or to their country of jurisdiction, depending on the situation.
CIA’s focus will remain where the American people expect it to be-on the mission of protecting the country today and into the future. We will do that even as we cooperate with Congressional reviews of past interrogation practices. Officers who act on guidance from the Department of Justice – or acted on such guidance previously – should not be investigated, let alone punished. This is what fairness and wisdom require.
CIA will continue to honor the law as we defend the United States as we have done since the beginning of this program. That is what the men and women of this Agency demand. Together, we can, and will, do no less. Thank you for your service and dedication to protecting this nation.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Happy Easter and Passover.
Leon E. Panetta