Analysis: Can Obama’s inter-agency interrogation unit overcome turf-wars?

The task force set up by President Barack Obama to reform US interrogation policies will shortly be unveiling its long-awaited report. There are rumors in the US intelligence community that the report will call for a new inter-agency interrogation unit that will combine experts from several US military and intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI. But in a well-argued article in Time magazine, Bobby Ghosh asks the important question of whether such a plan is represents mere wishful thinking, by ignoring the “brief and bleak” history of inter-agency cooperation on interrogation. Ghosh recalls recent revelations of bitter turf wars between CIA and FBI interrogators after the capture of Abu Zubaida (also known as Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, and is said to be a key al-Qaeda figure. On that occasion, FBI interrogators withdrew from the case in protest over CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques. Ghosh’s article quotes several insiders who are pessimistic about the ability of the two agencies to work together, due to often-contrasting missions and varying bureaucratic conventions. It also reflects differing views on who should lead the inter-agency unit, namely the FBI, CIA or Pentagon. Admittedly, the turf battle over the rumored unit has already begun.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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