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Task force urges new panel to interrogate terrorism suspects

[JURIST] A presidential special task force on interrogations and transfer policies issued its recommendations [press release] Monday calling on the Obama administration to create a specialized interrogation group to question top terrorist suspects. The task force, created by executive order 13491 [text; JURIST report], in January recommended that the US create a joint panel, consisting of "experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the intelligence community" to interrogate high value terrorism detainees. Controversial techniques such as waterboarding will not be used [WSJ report] by the new panel, which will be spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and not the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official websites], which has previously taken the lead on interrogating detainees. The special task force's report to the president also endorsed the US Army Field Manual 2-22.3 [text, PDF] as a proper guide for interrogators and recommended greater State Department [official website] involvement before detainees are transferred abroad so as to ensure that they are not tortured once they leave the US. Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile], who chaired the commission, said the task force's recommendations would improve national security while respecting the rule of law:

The new policies proposed by the Task Force will allow us to draw the best personnel from across the government to conduct interrogations that will yield valuable intelligence and strengthen our national security. There is no tension between strengthening our national security and meeting our commitment to the rule of law, and these new policies will accomplish both.

At a White House press briefing [text] Monday, deputy press secretary Bill Burton was careful to say that the new specialized interrogation group will include the CIA, although it will be housed by the FBI and its director will now report directly to the FBI director.

The Obama administration first mentioned the possibility of a new intelligence agency [JURIST report] in July in response to widespread criticism [JURIST news archive] of the CIA's interrogation techniques. On Monday, Holder announced [press release] Monday that the DOJ will "open a preliminary review" [JURIST report] into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. The CIA has also come under criticism recently for committing fraud in its attempts to hide documents [JURIST report] and waterboarding suspects prior [JURIST report] to official authorization.

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