Washington: Seven former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) -– US premier intelligence agency -- have asked President Barack Obama to stop criminal investigations into the CIA's post 9/11 interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists.
The CIA directors, including three who worked under president George W Bush, made their request in a letter to the White House yesterday.
The letter, signed by Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, R James Woolsey, William Webster and James R Schlesinger, comes in the wake of the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations that took place during the Bush administration.
The ex-CIA chiefs believe that the move will only help the al Qaeda and the Taliban.
"Attorney General Holder's decision to reopen the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Moreover, there is no reason to expect that the reopened criminal investigation will remain narrowly focused," the letter said.
If criminal investigations closed by career prosecutors during one administration can so easily be reopened at the direction of political appointees in the next, declinations of prosecution will be rendered meaningless.
Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions, the former CIA directors argued.
Not only will some members of the intelligence community be subjected to costly financial and other burdens from what amounts to endless criminal investigations, but this approach will seriously damage the willingness of other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country, they said.
"Disclosures about CIA collection operations have and will continue to make it harder for intelligence officers to maintain the momentum of operations that have saved lives and helped protect America from further attacks," they said.
Noting that foreign services are already greatly concerned about the US inability to maintain any secrets, the letter said, certain result of these reopened investigations is the serious damage done to US intelligence community's ability to obtain cooperation of foreign intelligence agencies.
Arguing that the US promised these foreign countries that their cooperation would never be disclosed, the former CIA directors said, "As a result of the zeal on the part of some
to uncover every action taken in the post-9/11 period, many countries may decide that they can no longer safely share intelligence or cooperate with us on future counter-terrorist operations."
First Published: Saturday, September 19, 2009, 11:52