Newly declassified documents from the CIA give detailed accounts of interrogation techniques following 9/11 that could result in criminal charges.
The Obama administration released the documents Monday, claiming they reveal the CIA used "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques" that go against restrictions set up by the Justice Department.
"As horrifying as the contents of the reports are, we are gratified that the Obama Administration has finally released it," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special prosecutor to look into the alleged abuse of terrorism suspects after the 9/11. Interrogators will also answer to President Obama.
The CIA papers reveal interrogators told 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, "If anything else happens in the U.S., we're going to kill your children."
"They found out by reading this report from the CIA's own Inspector General that there were some people who went beyond even the very broad new rules they were given," said former national security official Richard Clark. "And those people are now likely to be prosecuted."
Still, some see the release of the documents as a threat to national security. They fear threats of investigation will concern interrogators and may only embolden future terrorists.
"These are people who were doing their patriotic duty to their country who were doing the best they could under excruciatingly difficult circumstances to try to make sure that another 9/11 wasn't carried out," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, vice president for Foundation of Defense Democracies.
"We may think that they made the wrong decision, but it's very important for the Obama administration-- as the Bush administration did-- to make sure people are not fearing that they're going to be prosecuted when they're out in the field making literally life and death decisions," he added.
Investigators credit the interrogations for developing key intelligence.
One CIA operative said the program thwarted al Qaeda plots, including one to cut the suspension line of a bridge.
Meanwhile, President Obama is creating a new special terrorism interrogation unit that will answer to the White House. Guidelines for questioning detainees now fall under the Army manual which prohibits:
- Forcing detainees to be naked
- Conducting mock executions
- Threatening with military dogs
- Exposing to extreme heat or cold
- Depriving of food, water or medical care and waterboarding.
Obama has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back and that individuals who acted within legal guidelines laid out at the time should not be prosecuted.