Panetta’s Defense of CIA Interrogators Undercut by New DoJ Disclosures
by Jason Leopold,
Antemedius, April 14, 2009 – 2:22pm
CIA Director Leon Panetta has consistently stated over the past several months that agency interrogators who participated in the Bush administration’s sadistic torture practices should not be subject to “any investigation, let alone prosecution,” because they were following legal advice provided by the Justice Department.
In March, Panetta said he agreed to cooperate with a Senate Intelligence Committee “review” and “study” on CIA interrogation methods on the condition that he received assurances from committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Republican Co-Chair Kit Bond (R-Missouri) that they would not attempt to “punish those who followed guidance from the Department of Justice.”
“That is only fair,” Panetta said. “Their goal is to draw lessons for future policy decisions” and [they] won’t seek to punish those who participated in the program.
On Thursday, in announcing the closure of the “black site” prisons where the torture took place, Panetta said CIA “officers who act on guidance from the Department of Justice – or acted on such guidance previously – should not be investigated, let alone punished. This is what fairness and wisdom require.”
However, Panetta’s defense was dealt a serious blow last week when the Justice Department revealed in a letter sent to a federal court judge that 92 interrogation videotapes the CIA destroyed were made between April and December 2002.
The Justice Department’s legal opinion authorizing the CIA to use specific interrogation methods, including the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding, was not issued until August 1, 2002.