Sunday, February 8, 2009

Former Head of CIA "Bin Laden Unit" Contradicts Leon Panetta's Testimony

Not only does Leon Panetta have no national security experience, but when he does talk about US anti-terror policy he gets it completely wrong.

From CQ Politics:

The former head of the CIA unit charged with liquidating Osama Bin Laden said that national security officials in the Clinton administration "had no qualms" about transferring al Qaeda suspects to countries with reputations for torture.

Michael A. Scheuer, who worked on finding Bin Laden from 1996 to his retirement in 2004, made the allegation during an April 17, 2007 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on the treatment of terrorism suspects picked up by the CIA.

"I know there was much more consideration under the Bush administration about how to handle these people than there was under the Clinton administration, sir," Scheuer maintained in response to a question from Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., the panel's chairman.

"There were no qualms at all about sending people to Cairo," he said, adding that there was a "kind of joking up our sleeves about what would happen to those people in Cairo in Egyptian prisons, sir."

Scheuer's testimony appears to contradict statements made about U.S. "rendition" policies during hearings on the Obama administration's pick to lead the CIA, Leon. E. Panetta.

As President Bill Clinton's budget director and later chief of staff, Panetta is said to have regularly participated in White House discussions of CIA operations. Panetta backed away Friday from earlier remarks that he suspected the United States had transferred terror suspects to other countries so that they could be tortured, CQ's Tim Starks reported earlier today.

The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Christopher S. Bond , R-Mo., pressed Panetta on remarks he made on the first day of his confirmation hearing Thursday, with Bond saying "it's news to me" that the Bush administration did so. He noted that the U.S. government "sought and received" assurances that any suspects transferred to other countries would not be tortured.

Panetta said he knew the United States sought and received those assurances, although there have been claims that suspects were mistreated nonetheless. But on Bond's question about "deliberative intent" to transfer subjects for the purposes of being tortured, Panetta said, "to that extent, I retract it.

"In his 2007 testimony, Scheuer said "We gathered the information; we focused on senior members and then followed the direction of the President.... Which was to arrange for the security or intelligence service in Country A to arrest those persons."

As for "diplomatic assurances from countries like Syria that they won't torture someone," Scheuer said, "It isn't ... as Mr. Roosevelt's Vice President said at one time, worth a bucket of warm spit, sir."

"If you accepted an assurance from any of the Arab tyrannies who are our allies that they weren't going to torture someone, I have got a bridge for you to buy, sir," the former CIA official said in response to a question from the panel.

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