DOJ Outlines New Transfer and Interrogation Policies
By Joe Palazzolo | August 24, 2009 12:36 pm

The Justice Department and senior administration officials today fleshed out news reports of a terrorism interrogation team to be housed at the FBI. The unit, named the  High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, was proposed by an inter-agency task force studying interrogation detention practices. President Obama has approved the task force’s recommendations.

From the Justice Department:

After extensively consulting with representatives of the Armed Forces, the relevant agencies in the Intelligence Community, and some of the nation’s most experienced and skilled interrogators, the Task Force concluded that the Army Field Manual provides appropriate guidance on interrogation for military interrogators and that no additional or different guidance was necessary for other agencies.  These conclusions rested on the Task Force’s unanimous assessment, including that of the Intelligence Community, that the practices and techniques identified by the Army Field Manual or currently used by law enforcement provide adequate and effective means of conducting interrogations.

The Task Force concluded, however, that the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement.  The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board.

To accomplish that goal, the Task Force recommended that the HIG should coordinate the deployment of mobile teams of experienced interrogators, analysts, subject matter experts and linguists to conduct interrogations of high-value terrorists if the United States obtains the ability to interrogate them.  The primary goal of this elite interrogation group would be gathering intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks and otherwise to protect national security.  Advance planning and interagency coordination prior to interrogations would also allow the United States, where appropriate, to preserve the option of gathering information to be used in potential criminal investigations and prosecutions.

The Task Force recommended that the specialized interrogation group be administratively housed within the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its principal function being intelligence gathering, rather than law enforcement.  Moreover, the Task Force recommended that the group be subject to policy guidance and oversight coordinated by the National Security Council.

The Task Force also recommended that this specialized interrogation group develop a set of best practices and disseminate these for training purposes among agencies that conduct interrogations.  In addition, the Task Force recommended that a scientific research program for interrogation be established to study the comparative effectiveness of interrogation approaches and techniques, with the goal of identifying the existing techniques that are most effective and developing new lawful techniques to improve intelligence interrogations.

Senior administration officials said it was too early to say whether the scientific research program would yield new techniques to be used in interrogations. One official emphasized the program’s goal was not only to identify new methods but to stay abreast of ways of enhancing exisiting ones.

The interrogation groups, the official said, will have a small administrative component, based at the FBI, but it’s unclear how many smaller teams of linguists, subject-matter experts and interrogators will grow from the proposal.

While the effort will be housed at the FBI, the CIA will play a major role, the officials said. The deputy of the team will be drawn from the intelligence community, and it’s presumed the adminstrative head will come from the ranks of the FBI.

Administration officials downplayed the White House’s role in the program, saying that all of the operational details will be handled by the HIG, but the National Security Council will have an oversight function and provide policy guidance.

The Justice Department also released the findings of the task force’s working group on transfer policy. See below:

The Task Force also made policy recommendations with respect to scenarios in which the United States moves or facilitates the movement of a person from one country to another or from U.S. custody to the custody of another country to ensure that U.S. practices in such transfers comply with U.S. law, policy and international obligations and do not result in the transfer of individuals to face torture.  In keeping with the broad language of the Executive Order, the Task Force considered seven types of transfers conducted by the U.S. government: extradition, transfers pursuant to immigration proceedings, transfers pursuant to the Geneva Conventions, transfers from Guantanamo Bay, military transfers within or from Afghanistan, military transfers within or from Iraq, and transfers pursuant to intelligence authorities.

When the United States transfers individuals to other countries, it may rely on assurances from the receiving country.  The Task Force made several recommendations aimed at clarifying and strengthening U.S. procedures for obtaining and evaluating those assurances.  These included a recommendation that the State Department be involved in evaluating assurances in all cases and a recommendation that the Inspector Generals of the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security prepare annually a coordinated report on transfers conducted by each of their agencies in reliance on assurances.

The Task Force also made several recommendations aimed at improving the United States’ ability to monitor the treatment of individuals transferred to other countries.  These include a recommendation that agencies obtaining assurances from foreign countries insist on a monitoring mechanism, or otherwise establish a monitoring mechanism, to ensure consistent, private access to the individual who has been transferred, with minimal advance notice to the detaining government.

The Task Force also made a series of recommendations that are specific to immigration proceedings and military transfer scenarios.  In addition, the Task Force made classified recommendations that are designed to ensure that, should the Intelligence Community participate in or otherwise support a transfer, any affected individuals are subjected to proper treatment.

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