Manual Transmission

/ January 22, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, President Obama's pick for director of national intelligence, today told lawmakers he supports the administration's newly minted executive orders governing interrogations of suspected terrorists by the CIA and other intel agencies, but cautioned that some of those actions could put future intelligence-gathering efforts at risk.

According to the White House directive, all government officials will now have to adhere to the rules, regulations and practices outlined in the Army's field manual for interrogation tactics, techniques and procedures. During today's confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Blair said that if he is confirmed he will take the administration's edict a step further by renaming the Army document the "Manual for Government Interrogations."

However, Blair expressed concerns over the possibility that the manual, in the wrong hands, could "become the training manual for resistance training" for suspected terrorists detained by U.S. forces. "I agree they should be uniform . . . (but) we need to be very careful about how we do this," Blair said. "We need to get it right."

To maintain operational security while implementing a uniform code of interrogation procedures, Blair said, he would use his position as the vice chairman on the "Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies" -- also established under the adminstration's executive order -- to ensure that information in the manual cannot be used against U.S forces. Further, Blair floated the notion of issuing a version of the manual that is "widely available in an unclassified form" but would not include "the specific techniques that can provide training value" to adversaries.

But ranking member Kit Bond (R-MO) pointed out that Blair's idea for two versions of the manual was the same approach applied by the Bush White House. When Blair attempted to respond, Bond cut Blair off, telling the DNI nominee he did not need a response.

-- Carlo Muñoz

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