Reported by Eli Lake of the Washington Times
Seven of the 10 living former CIA chiefs Friday urged President Obama to overrule his attorney general and not reopen investigations into CIA employees who may have abused detainees during the George W. Bush administration.
The former directors warned that further investigations would demoralize current CIA officers and might also lead allied intelligence services to suspend or scale back cooperation with the United States because the judicial probes could disclose joint operations and activities.
On Aug. 24, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. appointed a federal prosecutor, John Durham, to review cases against CIA officers suspected of exceeding Justice Department guidelines for interrogations of terrorist suspects following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The decision to reopen the cases was controversial in part because the Justice Department under the Bush administration had already considered the charges and declined to prosecute the officers.
In a letter released Friday, the former directors of the CIA, who included Democratic and Republican appointees, wrote: "If criminal investigations closed by career prosecutors during one administration can so easily be reopened at the direction of political appointees in the next, declinations of prosecution will be rendered meaningless. Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions."
The former CIA directors who signed the letter are: Michael V. Hayden, Porter J. Goss, George J. Tenet, John Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William H. Webster and James R. Schlesinger. The only living CIA directors who did not sign the letter are former President George H.W. Bush, current defense secretary Robert M. Gates and former President Jimmy Carter's CIA director, Stansfield Turner.
A former government official familiar with the drafting of the letter said the elder Mr. Bush was not asked to sign the letter because he is a former president and Mr. Gates was not asked to sign because he is currently serving in the administration.
In response to the letter, Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said the agency "is cooperating with the official reviews now in progress, in part to see that they move as expeditiously as possible. The goal is to ensure that current agency operations - on which the safety of our country depends - center on protecting the nation."
Beyond the impact on CIA morale, the seven former CIA directors said reopening the cases could inadvertently disclose the cooperation of foreign intelligence services that the U.S. government had promised would remain secret.
"Foreign services are already greatly concerned about the United States' inability to maintain any secrets," the letter said. "They rightly fear that, through these additional investigations and the court proceedings that could follow, terrorists may learn how other countries came to our assistance in a time of peril."
The letter goes on to say, "The United States promised these foreign countries that their cooperation would never be disclosed. As a result of the zeal on the part of some to uncover every action taken in the post-9/11 period, many countries may decide that they can no longer safely share intelligence or cooperate with us on future counter-terrorist operations. They simply cannot rely on our promises of secrecy."