CIA Director 'Fires' Military Contractors From Interrogating Terror Detainees

CIA Director Leon Panetta has "banned" private military contractors from questioning prisoners held in in U.S. custody, media outlets reported Thursday.

"The CIA has stopped using contractors to interrogate prisoners and fired private security guards at the CIA's now-shuttered secret overseas prisons, agency Director Leon Panetta said," according to the Associated Press.

Alerting his employees via e-mail, Panetta said the move will "save the agency $4 million." However, "the CIA refused to provide details about the contract, including its total value and the company or companies that were fired."

At first glance this appears to be a pretty minor gesture, given that the secret prisons reportedly no longer hold any prisoners. But as the New York Times reported in January -- and as some critics of Obama’s executive orders to shutter the CIA "black sites" have pointed out -- "Obama’s order on the C.I.A. would still allow its officers abroad to temporarily detain terrorism suspects and transfer them to other agencies." How long is "temporarily" remains unclear; but Panetta’s announcement means that such prisoners "will be interrogated by agency employees, not private contractors, and then quickly handed over to the U.S. military, or to their home countries or countries that have legal claims on them," according to the AP.

Private military contractors have long been known to carry out interrogations for both the CIA and the Department of Defense. In 2004, CorpWatch reported that interrogators working for two major defense contractors were allegedly responsible for "close to one-third of the torture and abuse incidents [at] Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq."

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