By Carol Cratty and Pam Benson
A special group set up to interrogate captured terror suspects has been mobilized more than a dozen times in the past two years, FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday.
"It's been effective," Mueller told a House appropriations subcommittee when asked about the use of the so-called High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, known as HIG. "Over the last two years I think we've had 14 instances where we've deployed elements of the HIG to conduct interrogations."
Mueller did not list the cases in which the HIG was used. A law enforcement official said the HIG can be deployed both overseas and in the United States and can be used in interrogations with U.S. citizens as well as non-citizens.
The HIG provides key research and cultural background on alleged terrorists and has regionally focused teams. The group's mobile interrogation teams, or MITs, can question suspects. The MITs are made up of FBI agents, CIA officers and others in the intelligence and homeland security community.
The HIG was created as the result of a recommendation made in the summer of 2009 by President Barack Obama's task force on terrorist detentions and interrogations. The group is housed in the FBI and led by an FBI official. There are two deputies - one from the CIA and one from the Department of Defense.
The HIG was used when Pakistani-American Faisal Shazad attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, 2010, according to comments made later that month by John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser.
U.S. officials also said elements of the HIG were used when Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian citizen, tried to set off a bomb hidden in his underwear on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit in 2009. The HIG was not fully operational at that time but a team was sent to provide support. Brennan said there was a delay in the team assisting in the Abdulmutallab case because the suspect had received his Miranda rights and had a lawyer.
Both Shahzad and AbdulMutallab pleaded guilty.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, chaired the hearing Mueller spoke before Wednesday. Wolf said the FBI is supposed to submit a report by March 17 outlining the research activities of the HIG and supplying any recommendations for developing new interrogation techniques. It's unclear if that report will be classified or made available to the public.