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Former CIA directors urge Obama to suspend interrogation probe

[JURIST] Seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to President Barack Obama Friday urging him to suspend Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators. The letter, signed by former directors Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger, urged Obama to halt the investigation [JURIST report], announced last month by Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile]. In the letter, the former directors wrote:

The post-September 11 interrogations for which the Attorney General is opening an inquiry were investigated four years ago by career prosecutors. The CIA, at its own initiative, forwarded fewer than 20 instances where Agency officers appeared to have acted beyond their existing legal authorities. Career prosecutors under the supervision of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that one prosecution (of a CIA contractor) was warranted. A conviction was later obtained. They determined that prosecutions were not warranted in the other cases. In a number of these cases the CIA subsequently took administrative disciplinary steps against the individuals involved. Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the re-opened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused.

The letter urged Obama to reverse Holder's decision to investigate in order to keep with his stated desire to the future, rather than the past.

After Holder announced the investigation last month, former US vice president Dick Cheney [JURIST news archive] accused [JURIST report] Obama of backtracking on his promise to not prosecute CIA agents for alleged abuses of suspected terrorist detainees under the Bush administration, calling it a political move. Holder's decision to initiate a preliminary review followed a recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website]. The White House press secretary said [press release] that Obama would not prevent Holder from opening investigations. Also last month, the DOJ released [JURIST report] a much anticipated 2004 CIA inspector general report [text, PDF] detailing controversial interrogation techniques used on terror detainees.

9/19/09: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] has condemned [press release], calling on the DOJ "to conduct a comprehensive criminal investigation into the Bush administration's rendition, interrogation and detention program."

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