February 4, 2010

US Intelligence Seeks Answers From Science

U.S. intelligence director Dennis Blair said Wednesday that an elite U.S. interrogation unit will conduct "scientific research" to find better ways of questioning top suspected terrorists.

"It is going to do scientific research on that long-neglected area," Blair told the House Intelligence Committee, without elaborating on the nature of the techniques being tested.

Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for Blair, declined to give detail to "specific research projects" but said any such project would follow U.S. law, which forbids torture, and abide by internal review safeguards.

Blair said the task would fall to an interagency group of top U.S. interrogators from across the intelligence community known as the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG).

"We've given it the responsibility of doing the scientific research to determine if there are better ways to get information from people that are consistent with our values," he said.

According to Blair, the HIG charter required it to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual, which does not allow abusive interrogation techniques.

Interrogation tactics by the U.S. have drawn critics because of the past use of techniques like waterboarding that meet international definitions of torture.

Obama formally abolished such techniques, which former vice president Dick Cheney described as critical to thwarting terrorist attacks in the wake of the September 11, 2001 strikes.

When asked to detail the research, Feinstein replied: "We are not going to discuss specific research projects, but Intelligence Community-sponsored research is performed in accordance with the law and institutional review board processes."


Image Caption: Detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002. Credit: Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy