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Message from the Director: New Review Group on Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation

Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon E. Panetta on the New Review Group on Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation

March 16, 2009

By Executive Order, President Obama established in January an inter-agency process to examine US Government policy options for detaining, questioning, and transferring suspected terrorists. As Director, I am part of that effort, which will, as we move forward, help fashion our country’s approach to these critical issues.

Earlier this month, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced a major review of CIA’s past practices in terrorist detention and interrogation. As I told you then, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee have assured me that their goal is to draw lessons for future policy decisions, not to punish those who followed guidance from the Department of Justice. That is only fair.

Because these different efforts will require large volumes of old information—much of it overlapping—I am creating a Director’s Review Group for Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation. Peter Clement, a senior leader from our Directorate of Intelligence, will head this new unit, which will have a small number of officers from across the Agency, including the National Clandestine Service.

I have also asked former Senator Warren Rudman to serve as my Special Adviser on the Senate inquiry. He knows intelligence and counter-terrorism, and he has a strong, bipartisan reputation.

CIA’s input will be crucial to these important projects in the Executive and Legislative Branches. In each case, the Agency’s voice must be heard. The Review Group will assemble data and formulate coordinated positions on the complex, often controversial, questions that define rendition, detention, and interrogation. Although it will need the cooperation of many here at CIA, one aim of the Review Group is to minimize the burdens imposed on our counter-terrorism cadre, who must remain focused on their mission.

Ultimately, we are now being asked to do what our Agency has done for years—to help our country adapt its strategy and refine its tactics, even as operations continue against al-Qa’ida and its allies. Let me be clear: CIA is fully engaged in the business of collecting intelligence on terrorist plots, including through debriefings. We do so under the laws and policies now in place. We remain on the offensive against al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups. This will not let up.

The safety of the American people depends on our ability to learn lessons from the past while staying focused on the threats of today and tomorrow. I know that the men and women of CIA are equal to that task.

Leon E. Panetta

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Posted: Mar 17, 2009 09:04 AM
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2013 01:13 PM