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Amid New Interrogation Details, Detainee Unit Created

With the release of CIA documents about harsh interrogation methods, the Obama administration announced a new panel that will oversee the questioning of terrorism suspects.

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    There was news today on how the U.S. has and will handle terror suspects. The Obama administration announced plans to oversee a new unit to interrogate detainees, shifting oversight from the CIA.

    That came on the same day newly declassified CIA documents gave details of past interrogation methods. The report alleges CIA agents threatened to kill the children of the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Another detainee was told his mother and family would be sexually abused in front of him.

    To investigate some of those older cases, the Justice Department appointed federal prosecutor John Durham to lead a probe of possible anti-torture violations during the Bush administration.

    To begin our lead story, I'm joined by Mark Hosenball of Newsweek.

    Welcome to the program.


    Thank you.


    Does the content of the documents released today take us much beyond what we already knew in the years after the September 11th terrorist attacks?


    Not hugely. It certainly doesn't take us hugely beyond what we knew following the release earlier this year by the Obama administration of those Justice Department memos, which actually told the CIA what enhanced interrogation techniques they could use and how to carry them out.


    So it fills in the picture some more?


    It fills in the picture, and it goes somewhat beyond those Justice Department memos, in that it says that the CIA, in violation or in excess of these Justice Department memos, used some of the techniques that you talked about, mock executions. They threatened the detainee with a drill and a gun. They went with the drill "bzz," to imply that they were going to attack him with it.

    They did threaten to kill the children of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They threatened to sexually assault or at least implied that they would stage sexual assaults of the children — or, sorry, of the female relatives of Abdul Rahman al-Nashiri, the one who was threatened with the drill and the gun, who was the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing in 2000.

    They also describe additional abuses of the procedure which the Justice Department called waterboarding, which was approved by the Justice Department, but then canceled by the CIA and the Bush administration. They say that this was used something like 83 times on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and 183 times on Abu Zubaydah, and it was in some cases used — that these people were subjected to much more extensive and lengthy drips of water than the people who planned this scheme had originally suggested.

    So, you know, there's additional information in here about the CIA's misuse of these techniques, but the general outlines, I guess, we already knew.


    Now, these events that are being described, when did they happen? How long ago were the facts that make up this report gathered?


    As I understand — well, the — the report itself was completed in 2004, May 2004, and given to the Justice Department and to selected members of Congress at that time. The report covers basically the period following September 11, 2001, to about 2003, when the most — the harshest of these interrogation techniques was abandoned, or 2004, anyway.


    Well, why was it released now?

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