CIA ‘out of’ detention, interrogation business


LAHORE – Indonesian militant Umar Patek is considered one of world’s most dangerous terrorism suspects for whom the US offered a $1-million reward in 2005. Intelligence experts say he possesses a wealth of information about the al Qaeda-linked groups in Southeast Asia. Yet the US has made no move to interrogate or seek his custody since he was apprehended earlier this year by in Pakistan with the help of a CIA tip, The Los Angeles Times reports while quoting the US and Pakistani officials. The little-known case highlights a sharp difference between President Obama’s counter-terrorism policy and that of his predecessor, George W Bush. Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
But it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The LA Times cites another example. In February 2010, the CIA helped Pakistan arresting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s military leader, in Karachi. He remains in Pakistani custody, and CIA officers are not satisfied with their access to him. “The CIA is out of the detention and interrogation business,” said a US official.
The newspaper says several factors are behind the change like the criticism of Bush administration’s interrogation and detention policies as brutal and degrading which led Obama to stop sending suspected terrorists to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Public exposure also forced the CIA to close a network of secret prisons. In addition, some CIA officers are spooked by a long-running criminal investigation by a Washington special prosecutor into whether they broke the law by conducting brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists during the Bush administration.
“Given the enormous headaches involved … it’s not surprising there are fewer people coming into our hands,” said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official.Patek can reveal links between al Qaeda sympathisers across the region. He is a prime suspect in the 2002 Bali bombings after which he is believed to have led a terrorist cell in the Philippines, said Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based analyst for the International Crisis Group. Patek’s information would be a gold mine to the US intelligence, she dded.Pakistani officials say they plan to deliver Patek to Indonesia.
A Pakistani intelligence source said no one from the CIA or any other US agency had asked to question Patek.According to The LA Times, the US officials expect that the CIA will be given access to information gleaned from Indonesia’s interrogation of Patek, and may even be allowed to sit in and provide guidance.Amid severe criticism by the Republican lawmakers, CIA spokesman George Little defends the policy, saying the agency has a wide range of effective capabilities at the disposal to pursue terrorists and thwart their activities.