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Archive for August 24th, 2009|Daily archive page

President Obama’s High Value Detainee Interrogation Group

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on August 24, 2009 at 6:16 pm

President Obama creates a group in charge of interrogating high vaue detainees, and for the first time since the creation of the CIA, the FBI will have jurisdiction over international terrorist interrogations:

President Obama has approved the establishment of a special unit of terrorist interrogators based out of the FBI, senior administration officials said Monday. The move comes in the wake of criticism of questionable CIA interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding and the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is common. A 2004 CIA report detailing the use of unauthorized interrogation methods — including the threatened use of a gun and an electric drill — is expected to be made public Monday.

The decision to place the FBI, rather than the CIA, in charge of the interrogations of suspected terrorists represents a major shift in U.S. national security policy. 

The change is based on the recommendation of an interrogation task force established by Obama shortly after taking office in January.

The interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group will be overseen by the National Security Council and “draw on interrogators from defense, intelligence and law enforcement,” a senior administration official said.

The group will be tasked in part with ensuring that future interrogations comply with restrictions outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual. The manual provides “adequate and effective means” of conducting interrogations, the administration officials said, though they left open the possibility of adding new methods based on the latest scientific research regarding “best practices” for interrogation. “There will be full transparency” regarding any new techniques that might be allowed as a result of such research, one of the officials said.

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“We are still responding to 9/11”: Post-Traumatic Stress Due to 9/11 Exposure Increased Over Time

In Health Issues on August 24, 2009 at 9:19 am

According to a recent study:

The number of people who have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being directly exposed to the World Trade Center attacks has increased over time, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, based on a survey of 50,000 people conducted five to six years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Overall, 19 percent of those surveyed in 2006-7 said they had developed post-traumatic stress symptoms in the five to six years after the attack, up from 14 percent in the first survey done of the group, two to three years after the attack. The increase was seen across the board — in rescue workers, office employees, residents and passers-by — but the sharpest jump was reported in the rescue workers.

The 19 percent overall rate in the second survey is roughly four times the rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome typically seen among American adults. Of the 19 percent, 9.5 percent had not reported symptoms in the earlier survey.

The study, “Asthma and Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms 5 to 6 Years Following Exposure to the World Trade Center Terrorist Attack,” is one of the longest-running studies of post-traumatic stress in civilians. “There are very few studies that have looked at one-time major disaster and looked at the course of mental health over time,” said Dr. Lorna E. Thorpe, a deputy New York City health commissioner who was the senior writer of the study. The research is a collaboration between the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most studies of civilians disasters — mass shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing and Hurricane Katrina, for example — end at three years, but studies of combat veterans do continue longer, Dr. Thorpe said.

Even though military combat is a different experience from one-time disasters, “Our findings are very consistent with combat veterans,” she said. Stress symptoms may increase over time because repercussions from the original event — such as job loss or health problems — may add to the strain, she said.

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Holder’s Justice Department Recommends Re-Opening CIA Abuse Cases

In Civil Liberties, Torture on August 24, 2009 at 9:11 am

According to a recent Justice Department report:

The Justice Department’s ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.   The recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, presented to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in recent weeks, comes as the Justice Department is about to disclose on Monday voluminous details on prisoner abuse that were gathered in 2004 by the C.I.A.’s inspector general but have never been released.

When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general’s findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder’s associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider. With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A. It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.

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