CIA observers say prosecution feared for actions in terror war

There is widening unease within the CIA over the possibility that career officers could be prosecuted or otherwise punished for their conduct during the interrogation and detention of terrorism suspects, said current and former government officials.

Only one CIA employee, a contract worker from North Carolina, has been charged with a crime in connection with the treatment of prisoners, stemming from a death in Afghanistan in 2003. But the officials confirmed that the agency has asked the Justice Department to review at least one other case, from Iraq, to determine if a CIA officer and interpreter should face prosecution.

The officials said the agency's inspector general is reviewing at least a half-dozen other cases, and perhaps many more, in what they described as an expanding circle of inquiries to determine whether CIA employees had been involved in any misconduct.

Previously, intelligence officials acknowledged only that "several" cases were under review by the agency's inspector general. But one government official said, "There's a lot more out there than has generally been recognized, and people at the agency are worried."

Of particular concern is the possibility that CIA officers using interrogation techniques that the government ruled as permissible after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might now be punished or even prosecuted for their actions in the line of duty, the officials said.

The details of some of the inquiries have been reported, but the government officials said other cases under review have never been publicly disclosed. Officials declined to provide details of all the cases now under scrutiny.

The officials said the concern within the ranks has been growing since the agency's removal of its station chief in Baghdad in December 2003, in part because of concerns about the deaths of two Iraqis who had been questioned by CIA employees.

The reason for the station chief's removal has not been previously disclosed. Former and current intelligence officials say the action occurred nearly four months before a wider pattern of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad became publicly known.

In response to the reviews, the CIA has made a number of significant changes to its rules on interrogation to avoid problems, the officials said.

Asked about the inspector general's reviews, an intelligence official described them as a robust effort by the CIA to ensure that its conduct has been proper. "The inspector general is working collaboratively with counterparts in the military services in all investigations," the official said.

By Douglas Jehl and David Johnston


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