Torture allegations in 2008 derailed CIA director nominee John Brennan from getting the same job four years ago. Now as Brennan prepares for his confirmation hearing the movie Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide and the issue of "enhanced interrogation" techniques are front and center again. CNN's Chris Lawrence reports on the controversy.
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
Federal prisons and Defense Department correctional facilities in the U.S. would need myriad operational changes if detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were transferred into the country, according to a Congressional investigative report released Wednesday.
However, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who ordered the report in 2008, touted it as proof the U.S. prison system could handle the detainees, many of whom are accused of terrorist acts.
"This report demonstrates that if the political will exists, we could finally close Guantanamo without imperiling our national security," Feinstein said.
According to the Government Accountability Office report, there are six Defense Department facilities within the U.S. and more than 2,000 facilities holding individuals convicted of federal crimes that could hold Gitmo detainees.
The report found that many issues would need to be considered if those detainees were transferred to one of the facilities located in the U.S.
By Bill Mears
A federal judge used tough language to block efforts by the Obama administration to limit the legal rights of terror suspects held at the GuantanamoBay military prison inCuba, ruling Thursday that proposed changes were an "illegitimate exercise of executive power."
Officials of the departments of Justice and Defense had claimed they alone should decide when the prisoners deserve regular access to their attorneys.
But in a 32-page ruling, Judge Royce Lamberth said federal courts had proper authority to decide the matter, and criticized the executive branch for recently changing the procedures, when he said the current system was working well.
"The old maxim 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' would seem to caution against altering a counsel-access regime that has proven safe, efficient, and eminently workable," said Lamberth. "Indeed," he added, "the government had no answer when the court posed this question in oral arguments" last month.
"Access to the courts means nothing without access to counsel," added the judge.
Justice Department lawyers said they have started restricting when Guantanamo prisoners could challenge their detention in the Washington-based federal court. If approved, any relaxing of the rules would be made on a case-by-case basis at the exclusive discretion of military officials, not by the courts.
By Bill Mears
Appeals from seven detainees at the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba, contesting their open-ended custody, were turned aside by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Without comment, the justices refused to take a fresh look at the "habeas" petitions by the suspected foreign enemy fighters and what rights they have to make their claims in federal court.
In the so-called Boumediene ruling in 2008, the high court said "enemy combatants" held overseas in U.S. military custody have a right to a "meaningful review" of their detention in the civilian legal justice system. It would force the government to present evidence and justify keeping the prisoners indefinitely, without charges.
But a federal appeals court in Washington has since refused to order the release of any detainee filing a habeas corpus writ, in some cases rejecting such orders from lower-court judges.
According to Pentagon figures, 169 foreign men are still at the Guantanamo facility, including five "high-value" suspected terrorists from the 9/11 attacks set to go on military trial.
By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
Two Democratic members of Congress announced a bill Thursday that would prohibit the indefinite detention of any suspected terrorist apprehended in the United States, whether or not the suspect was a U.S. citizen.
Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said the legislation would ensure that anyone captured, detained, or arrested in the United States on suspicion of terrorism will go through the civilian justice system and be provided due process rights awarded under the Constitution.
This would not apply to suspected terrorists captured overseas who are now being held at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"The goal here is to have clarity, first of all, on how these people are handled in the U.S., and second of all, to reassert the primacy and the importance of our civil justice system," Smith said. "It is our contention that our civil justice system absolutely protects us from the threat in this case."
By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
The U.S. military is still not clear where it would hold al Qaeda's most-wanted terrorist should he be caught, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.
Following up on a question asked of Adm. William McRaven, special operations commander, at his confirmation hearing last year, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, asked the admiral again: If al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri were caught tonight in Pakistan, where would he be placed for long-term detention?
"Last year, you said you weren't sure what we would do in that circumstance," Ayotte said. "Has anything changed since then?"
"Nothing has changed since then," McRaven responded.
By: Pam Benson
The number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who have re-engaged in terrorist activities since their release has increased slightly according to a new report made public Monday by the director of national intelligence.
The congressionally-mandated summary shows that 167 out of 599 detainees who were transferred to other countries as of December 2011 are either confirmed or suspected of returning to the battlefield, fighting Western interests. That represents nearly 28% of those released.