Torture Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:10 PM ET, 05/28/2009

Josh Meyer writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The FBI and Justice Department plan to significantly expand their role in global counter-terrorism operations, part of a U.S. policy shift that will replace a CIA-dominated system of clandestine detentions and interrogations with one built around transparent investigations and prosecutions.

"Under the 'global justice' initiative, which has been in the works for several months, FBI agents will have a central role in overseas counter-terrorism cases. They will expand their questioning of suspects and evidence-gathering to try to ensure that criminal prosecutions are an option, officials familiar with the effort said....

"The approach effectively reverses a mainstay of the Bush administration's war on terrorism, in which global counter-terrorism was treated primarily as an intelligence and military problem, not a law enforcement one. That policy led to the establishment of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; harsh interrogations; and detentions without trials....

"FBI agents for years had used non-coercive interrogations to thwart attacks, win convictions of Al Qaeda operatives and gain an encyclopedic knowledge of how the terrorist network operates. But they withdrew from questioning important suspects after the bureau opposed the tactics being used by the CIA and military -- often by inexperienced civilian contractors.

"The harsh interrogations provided such bad information that U.S. agents spent years chasing false leads around the world, former FBI agent Ali Soufan testified before Congress two weeks ago. 'It was one of the worst and most harmful decisions made in our efforts against Al Qaeda.'"

Duncan Gardham and Paul Cruickshank write in the Telegraph: "Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged....

"Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

"Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph."

Taguba last year accused senior Bush administration officials of war crimes in its treatment of detainees and called for accountability.

AFP reports: "Obama's record on changing the counter-terror policies of his predecessor has been 'mixed,' said a report by international human rights watchdog Amnesty International....

"Highlighting the 'widespread expectation of change' brought by Obama's swearing-in in January following eight years of George W. Bush's presidency, Amnesty said 'early promise and initial important steps to redress violations have been followed by limited action.'"

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