By Pam Benson
A suspected terrorist is held down by his CIA captives at a black site, one of the secret overseas prisons run by the CIA. Cloth covers his entire face as a bucket of water is poured over it.
It's the harrowing first scene from "Zero Dark Thirty," the soon-to-be-released movie about how the CIA found Osama bin Laden. The scene depicts waterboarding, the controversial harsh interrogation technique that simulates drowning, and it suggests that waterboarding and other coercive techniques aided in identifying the courier who eventually led to bin Laden.
While only a limited number of people have seen the movie so far at prerelease screenings, its first 45 minutes have reignited the debate over whether the U.S. government engaged in torture.
The scenes are bound to have a bigger effect on moviegoers than the less dramatic sleuthing depicted in the film, said Peter Bergen, a CNN national security analyst.
"These visceral scenes are, of course, far more dramatic than the scene where a CIA analyst says she has dug up some information in an old file that will prove to be a key to finding bin Laden," he wrote in an op-ed in CNN.com's Opinion section this week.
It's not just in a movie. By coincidence, the debate is also front and center as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to vote Thursday on whether to approve a report its nearly four-year investigation of the CIA's interrogation and detention program. Committee staff looked at more than 6 million pages of mostly CIA documents in compiling the 6,000-page report.
By Jennifer Rizzo, with reporting from Pam Benson
Former CIA Director David Petraeus testified on Capitol Hill on Friday that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an act of terrorism committed by al Qaeda-linked militants.
That's according to Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who spoke to reporters after the closed hearing, which lasted an hour and 20 minutes.
The account Petraeus gave was different from the description the Obama administration gave on September 14, King said.
Then, the attack was described as "spontaneous," the result of a protest against an anti-Muslim film that got out of control outside the compound.
Petraeus told lawmakers Friday that he had discussed the possibility of it being a terrorist attack in his initial briefing in September, according to King.
"He had told us that this was a terrorist attack and there were terrorists involved from the start," King said. "I told him, my questions, I had a very different recollection of that (earlier account)," he said. "The clear impression we (lawmakers) were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it arose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."
The "spontaneous" adjective was "minimized" during Petraeus' testimony Friday, King said.
By Pam Benson
Senior intelligence, State Department and FBI officials can expect to be grilled next week as congressional hearings resume on the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that killed four Americans.
Lawmakers want answers to many outstanding questions surrounding the September 11 armed assault on the diplomatic facility and a CIA annex in Benghazi.
Specifically, they want to know who was responsible, whether it was planned, the intelligence reporting on the threat to Libya prior the attack, and whether security was adequate.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a closed-door hearing on November 15. Scheduled witnesses include Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director David Petraeus, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen.
Clapper, Petraeus and Olsen will also testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on the same day.
By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson
The classified program that arms the U.S. government with powerful authorities to monitor communications of foreigners overseas is at the heart of a debate over just how much people should trust their government.
The Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act, originally enacted in 1978, was amended after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, allowing for a dramatic expansion of the abilities of the U.S. government to collect intelligence on foreign people in foreign countries. FISA sets procedures for the intelligence community to intercept e-mails, phone conversations and other communications of foreigners overseas who are suspected of threatening the United States.
The problem is that sometimes, in the course of collecting that electronic information, data also is collected on "U.S. persons" - meaning citizens or foreign residents of the United States.
By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
Defense Department officials are under a Justice Department order to preserve all e-mails and documents that may be related to the ongoing investigation into leaks to the news media of national security information, a senior Pentagon official confirmed Monday.
"We are complying with the preservation order," the official told CNN.
By Suzanne Kelly
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is expected to roll out new measures aimed at ending leaks of classified information after a spate of recent leaks.
Those leaks affected an ongoing intelligence operation against the al Qaeda arm in Yemen back in May, and included recent disclosures about the classified drone program and a cyber warfare program known as Stuxnet, aimed at an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility.
A source tells CNN that Clapper believes the source of such leaks span multiple government agencies, departments and branches of government.
While the new measures are expected to apply only to the intelligence community that Clapper oversees, they are not expected to apply to members of the National Security Council, who advise the president on sensitive and classified programs.
By Pam Benson and Carol Cratty
It may be one of the most confusing set of investigations going on. It's not just about one leak, it's at least three, all part of exclusive news reports happening within a two-week period.
We know the FBI is investigating two of the unauthorized disclosures, one involving the report about a mole who helped thwart a Yemen bomb plot targeting the U.S. and the other about how the United States and Israel were behind Stuxnet, the mysterious computer virus that caused Iranian nuclear centrifuges to spin out of control.
It is unclear whether there is an investigation of yet another story concerning the Obama administration's expansion of the drone program and how it determines which suspected terrorists will be targeted for a missile strike.
by Suzanne Kelly
As lawmakers call for formal investigations into the sources of recent leaks that have divulged details of highly classified national security programs, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is looking to the Intelligence Authorization Bill as a way to make people who leak such information more accountable.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room, Feinstein said, "I think what we're seeing, Wolf, is an avalanche of leaks and it is very, very disturbing. It's dismayed our allies. It puts American lives in jeopardy. It puts our nation's security in jeopardy."
Ranking members of both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees have joined Feinstein, D-California, in her calls for adding provisions that would require that lawmakers be notified in a more timely fashion when authorized disclosures are made, and for individuals to report the rationale behind those decisions. Other provisions are expected to call for more robust investigations of unauthorized disclosures of information and are expected to ask for additional authorities that would make it easier to drill down on the source of leaks and then prosecute those found to be responsible.
Government employees with access to highly classified information are violating federal laws and nondisclosure agreements if they pass classified information to persons who have not been cleared to receive it.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to add the leak provisions when it takes up the FY13 intelligence authorization bill later this month. The plan is for the full Senate to vote on the measure before the summer recess. Although the House has already passed a version of the bill without the leak provisions, they would likely be added during a conference with the Senate.
CNN's Pam Benson contributed to this report
By Suzanne Kelly and Pam Benson
Two months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Pakistani forces captured and handed over to the U.S. a Libyan who was fleeing Afghanistan and was suspected of having knowledge that could help expose the locations of al Qaeda operatives around the world.
Ibn al Sheikh al Libi was briefly in CIA custody before being turned over to Egyptians for questioning. It was a method often employed by the CIA in cases where the agency had no authority to hold suspected terrorists as long as they might need in order to collect valuable intelligence.
Back in Langley, Virginia, Jose Rodriguez, then chief of staff at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, was eagerly awaiting reports detailing information that al Libi was providing his interrogators. But the reports, according to Rodriguez, were slow and incomplete.
"It was clear that they were not going to look after our national security interests like we would look after our national security interests," said Rodriguez, who has just written a book, "Hard Measures," that justifies the use of secret CIA prisons and enhanced interrogation methods that include the controversial method of waterboarding.
He said he was frustrated by how slowly the information was coming in.
"It became obvious to me that we could not contract out interrogations," he said. "We needed to bite the bullet and do it ourselves."