Pannetta Taps Ex-GOP Senator to Advise CIA on Torture ‘Review’

By Jason Leopold

CIA Director Leon Pannetta has enlisted the help of former Republican Sen. Warren Rudman to assist him with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of the agency’s Bush-era interrogation and detention practices, Panetta said Monday.

Rudman, who represented New Hamspshire until his retirement in 1993, and had served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, will work as Panetta’s “special adviser” working exclusively to assist the CIA in dealing with inquiries from the Senate Intelligence Committee. Rudman will not be paid for his work, a CIA spokesman said.

Rudman is co-chair and an advisory board member of Partnership for a Secure America, a non profit group dedicated to “recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy,” according to the organization’s website. He supported a senate amendment to ban torture and, along with former Sen. Gary Hart, was appointed by Bill Clinton to chair the Commission on National Security, which, prior to 9/11 issued three white papers predicting a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil that was ignored by the Bush administration.

Rudman was also vice chairman of a committee that investigated the illegal sales of weapons to Iran in the 1980s. 

The Los Angeles Times said Rudman’s appointment to help with a “congressional investigation…represents an unusual step for the CIA, which has faced similar probes in recent years without enlisting such high-profile help. But the move reflects a recognition of the stakes of a Senate inquiry into one of the agency’s most controversial programs in recent years, as well as the political instincts of its new director.”

But that analysis does not appear to be entirely accurate.

For one thing, the Senate Intelligence Committee will simply “review” the CIAs’ interrogation and detention practices. The panel is not conducting an “investigation” and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s Democratic chair, and Missouri Republican Kit Bond, have avoided the use of the words “probe” and “investigation” to describe their work.

Feinstein and Bond said in a news release that the committee will conduct a yearlong, secret “review” of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has agreed on a strong bipartisan basis to begin a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program,” Feinstein and Bond said in a joint news release. “The purpose is to review the program and to shape detention and interrogation policies in the future.”

Feinstein and Bond said their “study” “will consist of extensive document review and interviews as are necessary to fully understand the creation and operation of the CIA detention and interrogation program.”

The senators’ review will run parallel to one being conducted by the White House.

Pannetta told agency employees in a letter Monday that he has been “assured” Feinstein and Bond “that their goal is to draw lessons for future policy decisions, not to punish those who followed guidance from the Department of Justice. That is only fair.”

The announcement of Rudman’s role came one day after the a report prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was leaked to Mark Danner, a journalism professor and author, who quoted extensive excerpts from the report in a lengthy article published in the New York Review of Books.

The ICRC report contained interviews the organization conducted with 14 “high-value” detainees whose “ill treatment” at the hands of CIA interrogators “constituted torture.”

“In addition, many other elements of the ill treatment, either singly or in combination, constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” according to the ICRC report quoted by Danner. The ICRC’s responsibilities are to ensure compliance with the Geneva Conventions and to supervise treatment of prisoners of war. The organization’s report is seen as legally binding.

Last year, Dick Cheney admitted in exit interviews that he personally “signed off” on the waterboarding of three alleged terrorist detainees and personally approved brutal interrogations of 33 others.

“I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the [Central Intelligence] Agency, in effect, came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do,” Cheney said in an interview last December with ABC News. “And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.”

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