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Dems Push to Ban Private Interrogators

June 12, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Buried deep within an enormous bill to authorize U.S. defense policies for 2009 is a provision to ban the use of private contractors for interrogating detainees, limiting the job to authorized government personnel. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill contain the private interrogators ban, which has caused the Bush administration to threaten a veto. They argue that it "would unduly limit the United States’ ability to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack.”

CQ reports:

>The provision to ban private interrogators came after news that contractors had ordered or committed abuses at prisons such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Both the House and Senate versions of the ban would take effect one year after enactment, with exceptions for certain related jobs, such as interpreters and information technology specialists.
>The House added the provision on the floor in an amendment by David E. Price , D-N.C., who argued that interrogations are inherently government functions.
>“We should all be able to agree that interrogation should be carried out by individuals who are well trained, who fall within a clear chain of command and who have a sworn loyalty to the United States, not by corporate, for-profit contractors,” Price said on the House floor late last month.
>Republicans replied that the best interrogators sometimes work for contractors.
>“So the bottom line is, this amendment ties our hands and prevents us from using the most effective, most qualified people to conduct interrogations,” said William M. “Mac” Thornberry , R-Texas. “And when you do that, you are limiting the information that is necessary to keep this country safe.”

Some say that using private contractors for interrogations could compromise national security. A Washington Post article from 2004, which can been viewed here, explains that the Army actually has a policy in place barring private interrogators for security reasons. The private interrogators who were use in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are in direct violation of this rule:

>"A policy memo from December 2000 says letting private workers gather military intelligence would jeopardize national security.
>The Army’s top personnel official, Patrick T. Henry, wrote the policy in December 2000.
>Henry cited a “risk to national security” in turning over intelligence functions to private sector workers. Private contractors may work for companies that do business with other countries and are not subject to the same chain of command that soldiers are, Henry wrote.
>"Reliance on private contractors poses risks to maintaining adequate civilian oversight over intelligence operations," Henry wrote. “Civilian oversight over intelligence operations and technologies is essential to assure intelligence operations are conducted with adequate security safeguards and within the scope of law and direction of the authorized chain of command.”
>An Army report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib says problems at the prison included confusion over who was in charge of contractors and a lack of supervision of the private workers.

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