CIA Interrogation Contractors Fired

We have known for awhile now that the intelligence community spends up to 70 percent of its budget on contractors. That includes the firms that supply light bulbs, the office chairs and such.

It also includes technology vendors, along with legions of contract analysts, who have been hired to, among other things, examine "open source" content on the Web and other material from around the world.

Now comes another story to remind us how integral contractors have become to the nation's security infrastructure.

"Weeks after President Obama took office, the Central Intelligence Agency extended its contract with a firm run by two psychologists who helped introduce waterboarding and other harsh methods to the agency's interrogation techniques, according to a news report.

"Two months later, CIA Director Leon Panetta fired Mitchell, Jessen & Associates and all other contractors that aided the CIA in its interrogations of alleged terrorists, the New Yorker reported this weekend."

That was from our colleague Walter Pincus. It's a strange experience reading a story with such creepy implications. It's worth keeping track of these kinds of arrangements, both from a contracting perspective, and from the larger perspective of what limits our country will observe in our war on terror.

Are contractors used in these kinds of situations to fuzz out lines of responsibility and accountability?

In the New Yorker, Panetta said he "'didn't support these methods that were used, or the legal justification for why they did it. He also said he supported at one time the creation of a 'truth commission' to look into the subject. But after Obama said in late April that he did not want to look as if he was going after either former president George W. Bush or former vice president Richard B. Cheney, Panetta said, 'everyone kind of backed away from it.'"

Does that mean the president is backing away from getting to the bottom of it because of political concerns? If so, is that the right way to go?

By Robert O'Harrow |  June 15, 2009; 9:19 AM ET intelligence
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Am a bit surprised at the needless last graf. Of course this issue is fully clothed in politics, even if the core and original concerns were about which techniques are effective and legal and ethical. Give us a break. This is Washington. This issue, and others related to the use of contractors, is very old news, too, even if still unresolved in the government and politics. Finally, of course some government agencies use contractors for risk insulation purposes, even plausible denial. That latter is clearly wrong and could involve illegalities. Note that no contractor has been nailed -- criminally convicted--for such perfidy regarding interrogation although some prosecutors and plaintiffs have tried and are still trying. There might be some news and investigative opportunities there, so why not go get them?

Posted by: axolotl | June 15, 2009 10:15 AM

Pres. Obama is a hypocrite for caring more about how he may look going after George Bush and cronies, rather than being mindful of US image abroad and leaving it to his Justice Dept. to enforce the law. People should be indiscriminately held accountable for their crimes under the law. President Obama knows this since he is a law school graduate and a constitutional scholar. It is beyond me why he is not being a caretaker of the law.

By not allowing his Justice Dept. to take action against Bush and cronies for war crimes, Pres. Obama is saying to the world that the US is above the law. Afterall, the US joined others in their quest to have Charles Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, and others tried for war crimes in International Court. Pres. Obama needs to be an advocate for US law as well as international law. It going to reflect very poorly on the US if no action is taken against Bush and cronies for war crimes, but Spain has them tried in International Court for war crimes.

I am totally disappointed that Pres. Obama won't allow his Justice Dept. to investigate and to find out if war crimes were committed. I expected Pres. Obama to keep his word about transparency, since he spent 2 year on the campaign trail as a US Senator promising transparency if he won the election. I AM HIGHLY DISAPPOINTED IN PRES. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA!!!

Posted by: marge9 | June 15, 2009 12:11 PM

So much has changed; but the character of men it seems, remains firmly flawed as ever - no matter their charisma: catatonic in its fixity and fanaticism, averse to refining his base character, thus remaining by choice in a state of Hominoid tribalism.
What is absolutely proven beyond all doubt at this time is the CIA has yet to discover their ultimate TRUTH SERUM. For if it had, these vulgar Dark Age methods could have been completely avoided.
Mr. Kissinger wrote in his Diplomacy p. 28: "The statesman must act on assessments that cannot be proved at the time that he is making them; he will be judged by history on the basis of how wisely he managed the inevitable change and, above all, by how well he reserves the peace."
On this basis, what a ghastly chapter in U.S history and an abysmal failure on the judgements of all involved. Accountability? laughable! These men form what can only be likened to a bizarre mutation of sorority. If not; where have gone the REAL MEN OF PRINCIPLE! There is a sickness in Washington worse than Anthrax, more contagious than Swine Flu, and more lethal than a 'smart bomb.' It is called Self-Preservation veiled behind National Security which has FAILED to preserve the nation its Father's built; FAILED to maintain security and FAILED to conduct itself with any degree of HONOR with the exception of its Sons and Daughters; the troops. Yet, all their Masters stand with full personal coffers! Rome never died... No conspiracy, just Business.

Posted by: powersiege | June 15, 2009 7:47 PM

on june 15 Marge called Obama a hypocrite for caring more about how he looks going after George Bush and cronies, rather than being mindful of US image abroad and leaving it to his justice department to enforce the law. Marge sould be more concerned about whether Obama is qualified according to law to be president, since he has yet to provide a satisfactory birth certificate.

Posted by: milact | June 19, 2009 10:38 AM

Agreed, Marge is obviously motivated in her comments more about her hate of Obama than by the story she is responding to. Conservatives love mention Obama's middle name as if it were an insult. They love to call his a Muslim even though, in the same breath, they criticize his attending Rev. Jeremy Wright's church. Oi vey. I do agree with the premise of the article - come on! We need some accountability. Even if was a Clinton or Carter ordering those harsh interrogations, they would need to be held accountable. Torture is torture no matter who orders it. Our government's use of contractors in Iraq is particularly disturbing because they (correct me if I am wrong - it's a possibility!) they operate extrajudiciously, having no legal system to hold them accountable.

Posted by: schteph | June 19, 2009 12:53 PM

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