Recent reports about "mock executions" and other incendiary interrogation tactics have given the CIA a bad, bad name. Thus, President Obama and his White House are taking things into their own hands. But what does that mean?
It means that the CIA will no longer get its jollies by man-handling suspected terrorists and the such. Rather than letting the agency do the asking, the White House will soon unveil a new "High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group" whose sole task will be to get the truth out of prisoners. And, rather than let these sessions spin into publicity nightmares, the members will reportedly follow a little thing called the Army Field Manual. How novel!
Gone are the days of waterboarding and in are the days of relatively by-the-book inquiries.
Which tactics are acceptable was an issue "looked at thoroughly," one senior official said. Obama had already banned certain severe measures that the Bush administration had permitted, such as waterboarding.
Still, the Obama task force advised that the group develop a "scientific research program for interrogation" to develop new techniques and study existing ones to see whether they work. In essence, the unit would determine a set of best practices on interrogation and share them with other agencies that question prisoners.
In addition to this science-loving group, the Obama White House wants to bring the Justice Department to obtain "assurances" from foreign governments that US-sought detainees won't be tortured. And that Department will do everything in its power to make sure that these "assurances" are sincere. That's certainly refreshing!
Now, don't get too excited, because the task force is still debating which prisoners will receive their Miranda rights. Said one official, "It is not going to, certainly, be automatic in any regard that they are going to be Mirandized.... Nor will it be automatic that they are not Mirandized."
The task force will reportedly be headed by someone from the FBI and, though an independent group, will likely work closely with the CIA, as well as the Bureau.
On a somewhat related note, Stars and Stripes</em>, a newspaper that covered the armed services, reports that reporters looking to be embedded in Afghanistan will be vetted by the military's public affairs office.
U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars and Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject to a background profile by The Rendon Group, which gained notoriety in the run-up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq for its work helping to create the Iraqi National Congress. That opposition group, reportedly funded by the CIA, furnished much of the false information about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion.
The Rendon Group has been working with the Pentagon for years, by the way, and say their mission is to "expertly deliver insightful strategic communications services and products that provide clients tactical superiority in their complex information environments." Their evaluations will, according to Stars and Stripes, deem a reporter's work as "positive," "negative," or "neutral."
For its part, the military says reporters will be evaluated simply on the accuracy of their stories, not whether their perspective puts a positive spin on the action. That's the government's job! Especially considering that a new brief on the CIA's old, tired, frightening tactics will be soon be released. Now that's what we call beating a story.