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Director's Statement on Executive Order on Detentions, Interrogations

Statement to Employees by Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael V. Hayden on the Executive Order on Detentions and Interrogations

July 20, 2007

Today, the President issued an Executive Order that interprets the meaning and application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Order provides specific requirements that ensure a CIA-run terrorist detention and interrogation program would be in full compliance with US obligations under Common Article 3. It is the culmination of a process begun just over a year ago, when the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions apply to the conflict with al-Qa’ida.

The CIA program that the President announced last September always operated in strict accord with American law. It was carefully reviewed by the Department of Justice, approved and re-approved by the National Security Council Principals Committee, and repeatedly and fully briefed to our congressional oversight committees—first to the leadership and then the full membership. But the Supreme Court’s decision changed the legal landscape in which we operated. So it was incumbent upon the Agency—and upon me personally—to seek guarantees that any actions the CIA might take in the future regarding detainees would be, as before, on a completely sound legal foundation.

Common Article 3 contains vague language that has been subject to a variety of interpretations, not only within the US but internationally. The President’s action—along with the Military Commissions Act of 2006—gives us the legal clarity we have sought. It gives our officers the assurance that they may conduct their essential work in keeping with the laws of the United States. The Executive Order resolves any ambiguity by setting specific requirements that, when met, represent full compliance with Common Article 3. Any CIA terrorist detention and interrogation effort will, of course, meet those requirements.

Our chief tool in these interrogations has been knowledge—knowledge of terrorists, their activities, and their motivations. When used effectively, with thorough access to a detainee, it offers the best chance of gaining critical intelligence.

Those of you working the counterterrorism mission understand better than anyone the value of this initiative. In the past five years, fewer than 100 hardened terrorists have been placed in the program, and just a fraction of those—well under half—have ever required any sort of enhanced interrogation measures. But our careful, professional questioning of those men has produced thousands of intelligence reports, revealed priceless insights on al-Qa’ida’s operations and organization, foiled plots, and saved innocent lives.

Simply put, the information developed by our program has been irreplaceable. If the CIA, with all its expertise in counterterrorism, had not stepped forward to hold and interrogate people like Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the American people would be right to ask why. We have shouldered that responsibility for just one reason: to learn all we can about our nation’s most deadly and fanatical enemies so that our operations to undermine them are as effective as possible.

CIA took the steps dictated by good tradecraft and common sense. Our country is safer for it. And the support that the President and the Congress have given us is anchored by today’s Executive Order and by the legislation that preceded it.

Bottom line: We can focus on our vital work, confident that our mission and authorities are clearly defined. Throughout the long fight ahead against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates, we will exploit every opportunity to expand our understanding of the enemy and his plans, and use that knowledge to protect our Republic.

Mike Hayden



Historical Document
Posted: Jul 20, 2007 12:31 PM
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2008 09:40 AM