Tags: panetta | cia | abuse | holder

CIA Director Panetta: Alleged Abuse 'Old Story'

Monday, 24 Aug 2009 03:35 PM

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Any new details on prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators in its counterterrorism efforts are an "old story," said agency director Leon Panetta Monday before an internal report on the practices was to be released.

The Justice Department is set to disclose details on detention practices gathered in 2004 by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general, but never released.

The inspector general has reportedly found CIA interrogators used a handgun and an electric drill to try to frighten a captured Al-Qaeda commander, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, into giving up information.

On Monday morning, however, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told the intelligence agency's workforce in a letter obtained by AFP that the revelations are "in many ways an old story."

"The outlines of prior interrogation practices, and many of the details, are public already," he wrote.

"The use of enhanced interrogation techniques, begun when our country was responding to the horrors of September 11th (2001), ended in January," he wrote.

President Barack Obama took over the White House in January from George W. Bush, who oversaw a global US "war on terror" in response to the attacks on New York and Washington.

"For the CIA now, the challenge is not the battles of yesterday, but those of today and tomorrow," Panetta wrote.

The CIA referred abuse allegations to the Justice Department for potential prosecution, Panetta said, adding that the CIA "made no excuses for behavior, however rare, that went beyond the formal guidelines on counterterrorism."

In one instance, the Justice Department "obtained a criminal conviction of a CIA contractor" but in other cases where the department did not pursue court action, the agency "took disciplinary steps of its own," according to Panetta.

"As director in 2009, my primary interest -- when it comes to a program that no longer exists -- is to stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given," he said.

While admitting that the CIA's actions over the eight-year period will prove a durable area for debate in the United States, Panetta maintained his agency did obtain "intelligence from high-value detainees when inside information on Al-Qaeda was in short supply."

Copyright AFP 2008, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium

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