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Petraeus suggests interrogation policy for emergencies

June 24, 2011 - Washington

General David H. Petraeus, President Obama's choice to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has told senators that the U.S. should consider a policy for using special interrogation techniques when a detainee is withholding information that is immediately needed to save lives.

In the vast majority of cases, Petraeus said, the "humane" questioning standards mandated by the U.S. Army Field Manual are sufficient to persuade detainees to talk.

Though he did not use the word torture, Petraeus said "there should be discussion ... by policymakers and by Congress" about something "more than the normal techniques."

Petraeus, speaking at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, was quoted by the L.A. Times, as describing an example of a detainee who knows how to disarm a nuclear device set to explode under the Empire State Building. Congress may want to give the president the option of taking extraordinary measures to extract that information, he said.

Senator John McCain of Arizona said that endorsed the idea.

"I look forward to working with you on this ticking time bomb scenario," said McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "I think the person responsible should be the president of the United States. ... I do agree with you," McCain added.

The comments were noteworthy because they came from two men opposed to interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that were used by the CIA in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Obama banned the techniques when he took office.

Petraeus, who would become the first CIA director to arrive directly after serving as the top commander in a war, would be called upon to offer objective views of the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The general sought to dispel concerns about having to, as he put it, "grade my own work."

Petraeus also said he wanted to make sure the agency wasn't "totally captured" by the war against Al Qaeda. China, weapons proliferation and the next developments in the "Arab Spring" should also be intelligence priorities, he said, calling cyber-threats "of particular note."

Petraeus, who will resign from the military before joining the CIA, said he had no plans to bring his own "brain trust" to the agency. He will rely on career agency employees to advise him, he said.


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