Obama's return of failed lawfare policies of past
There is more. I still believe this change is driven by those at the CIA who are unwilling to trust this administration after they unleashed a prosecutor on those who have questioned terrorist in the past. It is certainly an understandable reaction, but the downsides of returning to lawfare are that we will be less likely to find out planned attacks and we will turn over souces and methods of gatering intelligence to our enemies if we try to put them on trial. We did it with the African embassy bombing trials and as a result lost a source of intelligence on bin Laden's plans.
Most of the details behind a White House plan to grab oversight authority over detainee interrogations still need to be ironed out, but critics already are questioning the logic behind the move to yank responsibility from the CIA and hand it to a potentially political and bureaucratic unit.
The changing landscape for how the United States handles terrorism suspects is unmistakable.
Under task force recommendations that President Obama intends to follow, a new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group will be housed in the FBI and subject to oversight from the White House-based National Security Council.
The head of the unit, while not named, reportedly will be an FBI official and this official, the White House says, will report directly to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Attorney David Rivkin, a former Justice Department official and frequent critic of the reversal of CIA practices, said the shift brings the fight against terrorism "full circle" to a time when it was treated largely as a criminal crackdown.
"This is a full return to Sept. 10 mentality," he said.
Rivkin argued that since the FBI's focus is on collecting evidence for criminal prosecutions, not intelligence gathering, it is ill-suited to conduct these interrogations. He added that the FBI is lacking the kind of contacts with foreign intelligence agencies the CIA maintains.
But the administration insists that the new unit will comprise interrogators from several agencies, including the CIA, and will continue to focus primarily on "intelligence gathering." It will not be a de facto FBI operation, officials say, and the shift will not be a coup against the CIA.
"The High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) is designed to be a multi-agency group, not a sub-unit of the FBI or the Justice Department," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement. "Thus, while the HIG will be housed administratively within the National Security Branch of the FBI, the group will be staffed by elements of the intelligence community, and will receive policy guidance and oversight from the National Security Council."
"Once you have direct knowledge of day-to-day activities coming into a central location near or at the White House, there's a tendency, almost a temptation, to meddle in actual field activities, such as LBJ calling in to commanders in rice paddies in Vietnam what he wants to have done that day," said Tony Shaffer, a former Army intelligence officer who conducted interrogations in Afghanistan, referring to President Lyndon Johnson's tactics to manage the Vietnam War.
"The National Security Council staff doesn't have, in my view, the expertise to be in the interrogation business," said former National Security Adviser Richard Allen. "And then, of course, there are the issues of the FBI, how it works and has traditionally worked with the CIA -- not all that well, as we know."