What Congress Wants to Know About CIA Detention and Interrogation Actions

New CIA chief Panetta tries to calm anxiety at the agency about the Senate committee investigation.

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CIA chief Leon Panetta worked to calm his troops this week after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence announced that it will conduct a review of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.

The review, destined to again drag the agency onto the front pages, is expected to last at least a year. "What I will not support is an inquiry designed to punish those who acted in accord with guidance from the Department of Justice," Panetta wrote in a letter to agency employees.

The committee, he noted, has been briefed on the program over the years. He said the lawmakers, however, want to know more about how the CIA "created, operated, and maintained its detention and interrogation program" as well as about the results that were obtained from standard versus so-called enhanced techniques.

Further, they want to determine if the CIA accurately described the detention and interrogation program to other parts of the U.S. government, including the committee and the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. They will consider whether the agency was acting under legal guidance from the Justice Department, too.

Panetta said that the CIA will not get distracted and will "keep our focus right where it belongs—on protecting the American people."

Panetta and former spy chief Michael Hayden disagreed on which methods of interrogation should be allowed for CIA officers. But they have been of one voice about protecting those in the agency who followed orders.

"I think they did their job. They did it pursuant to the guidance that was provided them, whether you agreed or disagreed with it," Panetta told reporters last month, discussing a potential congressional investigation. "But as far as the Congress reviewing these issues and trying to gain lessons learned, we'll obviously cooperate."

Another key aspect of the review will be an assessment of the effectiveness of the enhanced techniques, including some methods that critics say crossed the line to being torture.