Obama Feeling Pressure to Investigate Torture

Tension is building behind the scenes among Barack Obama's advisers over whether the new administration should investigate allegations of torture and other Bush administration misdeeds. Obama has said he wants to "move forward," but pressure on his team has increased thanks to recent comments in The Washington Post by a top Pentagon official that the treatment of one Guantánamo detainee "met the legal definition of torture." One transition source, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters, said that Attorney General-designate Eric Holder may be more inclined than other Obama aides to press the matter. Last week Holder told a Senate panel that he considers waterboarding, which was used on three Qaeda suspects held by the CIA, to be torture. "We will follow the evidence, the facts, the law, and let that take us where it should," he said, adding that he did not believe waterboarding yielded reliable intelligence.

Fearing a witch hunt, intel officials are pushing back hard against the threat of a sweeping investigation. Last week outgoing CIA chief Michael Hayden told reporters that enhanced interrogation techniques "worked," though he reiterated that the CIA no longer uses waterboarding. A classified review by the agency's inspector general determined that CIA interrogations produced "thousands" of intel and analytical reports, leading to the capture of suspects and the foiling of plots, according to a person familiar with the document who also declined to be named. Both Hayden and Mike McConnell, the outgoing intel czar, said last week that the Obama administration should leave the CIA with the option of using interrogation methods outside the scope of a U.S. Army interrogation manual; legislation proposed by congressional Democrats would prohibit any methods not outlined in the manual. "We're a secret intelligence service," Hayden said. "We are asked to do things routinely that … no one else [is] ever asked to do. We have to take risks."