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August 26, 2009

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Obama team to crack down on 'terror' tactics

THE Obama administration is setting strict new standards for treatment of terror suspects, as the Justice Department launches a criminal probe of past interrogation tactics during former US President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.

A newly declassified version of a CIA report revealed on Monday that CIA interrogators once threatened to kill a September 11 suspect's children and suggested another would be forced to watch his mother sexually assaulted.

The fresh crop of damaging revelations only intensified the long-running political fight about the secret interrogation program - whether it protected the country then, and whether spilling its secrets now will weaken the nation's future security.

Top Republican senators said they were troubled by Attorney-General Eric Holder's decision to begin a new criminal probe, which they said could hamper US intelligence efforts.

And former Vice President Dick Cheney said the CIA's interrogation of terror suspects "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks."

In a statement, Cheney said those who carried out the interrogations "deserve our gratitude" and do not deserve "to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions."

He said Monday's Obama administration decisions serve as a reminder "if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security."

On the other side, Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the revelations showed the Bush administration went down a "dark road of excusing torture."

Holder said on Monday that he had chosen a veteran prosecutor, John Durham, to open a preliminary investigation to determine whether any CIA officers or contractors should face criminal charges for crossing the line on rough but permissible tactics.

Durham is already investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos.

President Barack Obama has ordered changes in interrogations, bringing in other agencies besides the CIA under the direction of the FBI and to be supervised by his national security adviser.

The administration pledged that questioning would be controlled by the Army Field Manual, with strict rules.


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