The Corner

Panetta Defends CIA: Report Already Reviewed by Congress, DOJ

From Leon Panetta’s letter to CIA staff on today’s release of the inspector general report on interrogation methods:

· The CIA itself commissioned the Inspector General’s review. The report, prepared five years ago, noted both the effectiveness of the interrogation program and concerns about how it had been run early on. Several Agency components, including the Office of General Counsel and the Directorate of Operations, disagreed with some of the findings and conclusions.

· The CIA referred allegations of abuse to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution. This Agency made no excuses for behavior, however rare, that went beyond the formal guidelines on counterterrorism. The Department of Justice has had the complete IG report since 2004. Its career prosecutors have examined that document-and other incidents from Iraq and Afghanistan-for legal accountability. They worked carefully and thoroughly, sometimes taking years to decide if prosecution was warranted or not. In one case, the Department obtained a criminal conviction of a CIA contractor. In other instances, after Justice chose not to pursue action in court, the Agency took disciplinary steps of its own.

· The CIA provided the complete, unredacted IG report to the Congress. It was made available to the leadership of the Congressional intelligence committees in 2004 and to the full committees in 2006. All of the material in the document has been subject to Congressional oversight and reviewed for legal accountability.

…I make no judgments on the accuracy of the 2004 IG report or the various views expressed about it. Nor am I eager to enter the debate, already politicized, over the ultimate utility of the Agency’s past detention and interrogation effort. But this much is clear: The CIA obtained intelligence from high-value detainees when inside information on al-Qa’ida was in short supply. Whether this was the only way to obtain that information will remain a legitimate area of dispute, with Americans holding a range of views on the methods used. The CIA requested and received legal guidance and referred allegations of abuse to the Department of Justice. President Obama has established new policies for interrogation.

NRO Staff — Members of the National Review Online editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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