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The End of Secret Prisons

(AP / CBS)
Judging from the headlines this Good Friday morning, the Central Intelligence Agency has followed up on the White House's pledge to close those odious "secret prisons" around the world; dark places were some of our terror suspects were water-boarded and otherwise tortured.

The New York Times played the story this way: "The Central Intelligence said Thursday that it would decommission the secret overseas prisons where it subjected Al Qaeda prisoners to brutal interrogation methods, bringing to a symbolic close the most controversial counterterrorism program of the Bush administration. But in a statement to employees, the agency's director, Leon E. Panetta, said agency officers who worked in the program "should not be investigated, let alone punished" because the Justice Department under President George W. Bush had declared their actions legal."

The Washington Post was a little less declarative: "The CIA no longer operates any secret overseas prisons, Director Leon Panetta said yesterday, and has not detained anyone since he became chief in February. Panetta's statement, contained in a message to the CIA workforce, also said the agency will no longer use contractors to conduct interrogations or to provide security for remaining detention sites."

The Los Angeles Times took a slightly different tack: "CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that he had banned the agency's use of contract employees to interrogate prisoners or provide security at detention facilities, ending a practice that had drawn frequent criticism from human rights groups and key members of Congress. Panetta also spelled out new obligations for officers to safeguard the well-being of detainees when working with U.S. partners in Pakistan and other countries that frequently capture terrorism suspects with CIA help. The rules require agency employees to report abuses even if they take place "in the custody of an American partner."

The theme running through all these stories is the question of whether any of the men and women who tortured suspects (or who authorized their torture) ever will be tried and convicted (here, there, or anywhere). I still say: no way, no how, and I'll be writing more about the topic over the weekend in time for a new CourtWatch on Monday. Until then, give the matter some thought and let me know what you think.

Andrew Cohen is CBS News Chief Legal Analyst and Legal Editor.. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
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