The CIA Says Good Riddance

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TIME’s Bobby Ghosh contributes this post:

Good riddance! That’s the response of many in Langley to President Obama’s plan to take the interrogation of terrorist suspects away from the CIA. that task will now fall to a new interagency interrogation team announced by the White House today. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, will be house in the FBI, and some oversight will be carried out by the NSC. The CIA will contribute personnel to the team, but it’s role will greatly shrink.

Battered by controversies over its interrogation methods during the Bush era, it’s easy to see why many Agency hands, past and present, are only too glad to see that job pass to other hands. After all, the point out, interrogation was never part of the CIA’s mandate: it was thrust upon the Agency after 9/11. “We took the job because it was part of a larger role — fighting the war on terror,” says a former CIA operations officer. “We didn’t relish the interrogation piece.”

Many in the Agency say it was their lack of experience in interrogation and detention that led to the use of outside contractors — who brought with them the now-infamous techniques like waterboarding. “We didn’t invent these methods,” says the former ops man. “They were thrust upon us.”

For the record, the Agency maintains it will continue to play a big role in the HIG. “The CIA has played a vital role in the work of the taskforce, and its substantive knowledge will be essential to interrogations going forward,” says spokesman George Little, refering to the Obama-appointed taskforce that recommended creating the HIG.

But privately, some at the Agency express relief. “The CIA didn’t want to house the (HIG),” says a U.S. counterterrorism official. “They’re glad to be out of the long-term detention business.”