The White House has confirmed that U.S. President Barack Obama has approved the creation of an elite team of interrogators to question key terrorism suspects.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said the team will be headquartered at the FBI and will bring together all “different elements” involved in interrogations. He said the team’s operation will be consistent with U.S. Army Field Manual regulations.
The Washington Post quotes senior administration officials as saying President Obama approved the so-called High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group last week. According to The Post, the group will be made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and will be overseen by the National Security Council, giving the White House direct oversight of it.
President Obama already has banned severe interrogation measures such as waterboarding, or simulated drowning, which were permitted under the previous administration of President George W. Bush. Consistent with the Army Field Manual, banned techniques also include playing loud music and depriving prisoners of sleep.
Separately, The New York Times reports that the Justice Department ethics office is recommending reopening some prisoner abuse cases from the Bush administration, which could expose CIA employees and contractors to criminal prosecution.
A White House spokesman said the decision on whether to reopen the cases is solely up to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The developments come Monday, as a report by the CIA’s internal investigator is to be released, providing details of the controversial Bush-era interrogation techniques.
Sources who have seen the report say CIA interrogators brandished a gun at one prisoner, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, the man accused of masterminding an attack on the USS Cole, and also held a power drill near his body, turning it on and off.
In another case, a gunshot was fired in a room next door, to make a suspect believe another detainee had been killed. Threatening a prisoner with imminent death is illegal under U.S. law.
Sources who have seen the report say it suggests that the harsh techniques did not lead to useful information.
The investigation was completed in 2004. The American Civil Liberties Union fought for the results to be made public.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.