White House Confirms President Signed Off on Interrogation Group

Aug 24, 2009 11:40am

ABC News' Yunji de Nies and Jason Ryan report: White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton confirmed today that President Obama signed an executive order allowing a high-value detainee interrogation group to be established.

"The president, at the consensus recommendation of his interagency task force on interrogations and detainees, did put in place a new group, the High Value Interrogation Group, which will be housed at the FBI, the director will report to the director of the FBI. And it will bring together all of the different elements of the intelligence community to get the best intelligence possible," Burton told reporters at a press briefing in Martha's Vineyard, where the president is vacationing this week. "The president's view is that intelligence gathering is best left to the intelligence community and this is a way that the intelligence community can best operate, especially in these high valued instances."

Administration and DOJ officials said the group will handle future interrogations of high value al Qaeda and terrorism suspects. The NSC will oversee the group ultimately.

The DOJ said today that the Army Field Manual will be used as the framework and guide for interrogations, and that they will ensure the transfer of detainees out of U.S. custody does not result in the transfer of individuals to countries to face torture.

DOJ officials also confirmed that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended to Attorney General Eric Holder that he reopen detainee abuse cases. It remains unclear if the attorney general will appoint a special counsel or special prosecutor to investigate detainee abuse and torture.

One national security official said this new interrogation group will be focused on intelligence gathering and will not be reading Miranda rights to captured terrorism suspects. According to a separate U.S. government official, the CIA was more than willing to let FBI take the lead on this group, known as the HIG.

"The CIA didn’t want to house the initiative. They’re glad to be out of the long-term detention business," the official said.

– Yunji de Nies and Jason Ryan

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