President Obama has approved the creation of an elite team of interrogators to question key terrorism suspects, part of a broader effort to revamp U.S. policy on detention and interrogation, senior administration officials said Sunday.
Obama signed off late last week on the unit, named the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Made up of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the interrogation unit will be housed at the FBI but will be overseen by the National Security Council -- shifting the center of gravity away from the CIA and giving the White House direct oversight.
Members of the new interrogation unit will have the authority to travel around the world to talk to suspects and will be trained to handle certain high-interest people, such as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Linguists and cultural and interrogation specialists will be assigned to the group and will have "some division of responsibility" regarding types of detainees, a senior administration official said. Most of the group's members will work there full time, although they will have part-time support from the FBI.
Interrogators will not necessarily read detainees their rights before questioning, instead making that decision on a case-by-case basis, officials said. That could affect whether some material can be used in a U.S. court of law. The main purpose of the new unit, however, is to glean intelligence, especially about potential terrorist attacks, the officials said.