Is Obama's Long Promised High Value Detainee Interrogation Group Operational?

May 6, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - - In an August 24, 2009 announcement [see,] the DOJ's Special Task Force on Interrogations and Transfer Policies issued a set of recommendations to the president.

In the section of the press release covering interrogations, the task force advised the following:

"...the United States could improve its ability to interrogate the most dangerous terrorists by forming a specialized interrogation group, or High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), that would bring together the most effective and experienced interrogators and support personnel from across the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense and law enforcement. The creation of the HIG would build upon a proposal developed by the Intelligence Science Board. To accomplish that goal, the Task Force recommended that the HIG should coordinate the deployment of mobile teams of experienced interrogators, analysts, subject matter experts and linguists to conduct interrogations of high-value terrorists if the United States obtains the ability to interrogate them. The primary goal of this elite interrogation group would be gathering intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks and otherwise to protect national security. Advance planning and interagency coordination prior to interrogations would also allow the United States, where appropriate, to preserve the option of gathering information to be used in potential criminal investigations and prosecutions."

Given the lack of focus that team Obama has brought to matters pertaining to terrorism it was not surprising to find out that the HIG still had not been created when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "Christmas Bomber," was apprehended on Christmas day.

Now with the attempted Times Square bombing again forcing the administration to publicly deal with the increasing terror threat we find it still unwilling to state categorically that the HIG is an active force.

The following from the May 4 WH press gaggle:

Q Was the high-value detainee interrogation group -- was that deployed for this?

MR. GIBBS: The questioning draws on the expertise and the resources of the HIG.

Q But, wait, it draws on the --

MR. GIBBS: Expertise and the resources. I am not going to get --

Q So it wasn't actually deployed?

MR. GIBBS: I'm not going to get into the identities of who's exactly in the room, but, again, it draws on the resources of the HIG, yes.

The most obvious excuse for such parsing - with Gibbs spinning madly to obfuscate the matter - is that if HIG even exists it is still not yet fully functional.

Such a conclusion does not seem to be in conflict with a breaking piece by ABC's Jake Tapper [see,] in which the reporter makes seemingly discordant claims regarding HIG in the same short piece. Below from the lead:

"ABC News has learned that the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, is involved in the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested last night in the investigation into the failed Times Square bombing," which makes it appears that indeed HIG is operational.

The concluding sentence however fails to support the initial claim, essentially doubling down on Gibbs' verbal gymnastics of May 4, "...sources tell ABC News that HIG expertise and resources are being used with Faisal Shahzad."

In light of Obama's inability to inspire confidence in the government's efforts to battle Islamic terrorism, a straight declaration that HIG not only exists but is fully operational would be of benefit.

That team Obama has so far refused to do this speaks volumes.

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