Parsing the CIA's Detention Denial

Parsing the CIA's Detention Denial

The Executive Order cited by the CIA to deny the agency had detained militia members at the Benghazi annex has a caveat, one which explicitly allows short term detentions.

The interpretation of Executive Order 13491 is at the heart of an ongoing disagreement between a CIA spokesmen and unnamed sources who have leaked information to Fox News and, possibly, to Paula Broadwell.

The Executive Order in question was issued a couple days after President Obama took office. It eliminates CIA detention sites, aka secret prisons, and puts an end to interrogation methods which critics dubbed torture. However, the language of the Order does allow for some wiggle room on what constitutes “detention.”

Under Section 2, titled “Definitions” subhead (g) statesThe terms ‘detention facilities’ and ‘detention facility’ insection 4(a) of this order do not refer to facilities used only to holdpeople on a short-term, transitory basis.

In order to understand why this matters it’s necessary to get a picture of the charges and counter-charges now flying back in forth. Sunday afternoon, word spread that Paula Broadwell, Gen. Petraeus’ biographer and paramour, may have leaked classified information during a public speech at the University of Denver last month. Broadwell claimed the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi may have been motivated by the detention of militia members by the CIA.

The CIA was quick to deny this. In a piece published Sunday evening, an unnamed CIA spokesperson told Eli Lake “The CIA has not had detention authority since January 2009, whenExecutive Order 13491 was issued. Any suggestion that the Agency isstill in the detention business is uninformed and baseless.”

But hours after it was made the CIA denial was called into question by Fox’s Jennifer Griffin who reported Monday that highly placed sources had confirmed three militia members were being held at theCIA annex in Benghazi for “a few days” prior to the 9/11 attack. Furthermore her source claimed that freeing these detainees may have been a motive for the attack.

The claims being made by Griffin’s sources–short term detention–do not seem to be ruled out by Executive Order 13491. Just because the CIA is no longer in the “detention business” doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t dabble in it occasionally.


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