Why the CIA Doesn't Capture Terror Suspects Abroad Anymore

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>If the U.S. sees you as a terror suspect these days, you're more likely to be attacked by a drone than captured and interrogated, The Los Angeles Times reports. Outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, the CIA has essentially stopped trying to detain and question suspects in other countries. Although the U.S. still receives intelligence about terror suspects from foreign governments (e.g., Indonesia), it lacks control over  the questioning. Louis Tucker, former staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee, described an unclear policy in which the U.S. is "just flying by the seat of our pants."

Under Obama, the CIA has killed more people than it has captured, mainly through drone missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. At the same time, it has stopped trying to detain or interrogate suspects caught abroad, except those captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The CIA is out of the detention and interrogation business," said a U.S. official who is familiar with intelligence operations but was not authorized to speak publicly.

Several factors are behind the change.

Widespread criticism of Bush administration interrogation and detention policies as brutal and degrading led Obama to stop sending suspected terrorists to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Public exposure also forced the CIA to close a network of secret prisons. That left U.S. officials with no obvious place to hold new captives.

In January 2009, Obama ordered the CIA to abide by the interrogation rules of the U.S. Army Field Manual, which guides military interrogators and includes prohibitions on the use of physical force against detainees. Critics warn that Al Qaeda operatives could study the manual, which is available on the Internet, to learn how to resist its techniques, although no evidence has emerged suggesting that has happened.

In addition, some CIA officers are spooked by a long-running criminal investigation by a Washington special prosecutor into whether CIA officers broke the law by conducting brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists during the Bush administration.

"Given the enormous headaches involved ... it's not surprising there are fewer people coming into our hands," said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

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John Hendel is a writer based in Washington, DC, and a former producer at The Atlantic.

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