Sunday, March 15, 2009

S.F. prosecutor tapped by Obama to investigate terror suspect interrogation policy

A federal prosecutor in San Francisco will lead a task force investigating the government's policies on interrogating terrorism suspects, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Wilson, now chief of the National Security Unit in the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of California, will lead the task force created under President Barack Obama's Jan. 22 executive order seeking to balance national security needs with American human rights values.

This interagency task force is supposed to determine whether Army Field Manual interrogation guidelines should remain the only standards for nonmilitary departments or agencies trying to get information from terrorism suspects, or whether different or more guidance is needed.

It's also supposed to examine detainees' transfer to other nations — a practice sometimes called extraordinary rendition — to ensure doing so complies with all U.S. and international laws and doesn't lead to torture or inhumane treatment.

Under President Barack Obama's order, the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense or their designees will be the task force's co-vice-chairs, and other members will include representatives of the secretaries of State and Homeland Security; the Central Intelligence Agency's director; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and other officials as determined by Wilson.

Wilson is a Advertisementgraduate of Swarthmore College and Washington University Law School in St. Louis who, after a clerkship with Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, joined the Justice Department's Appellate Division and later became Appellate Chief in the U.S. attorney's office for Northern California; he also later served as that office's Criminal Division chief. From 2002 to 2004, he was special assistant to the Counsel for Intelligence Policy in the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and in 2005 and 2006, he was assigned to the Enron Task Force for the trial of executives Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay.

Holder also announced Wednesday that Brad Wiegmann — principal deputy and chief of staff in the Justice Department's National Security Division — along with a Defense Department representative will lead a special task force on detention policy. That task force must review the federal government's options for dealing with the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — a facility the president has ordered closed within a year — as well as anyone else to be caught, detained, tried, transferred, released or punished in connection with armed conflicts and terrorism.

Both task forces are supposed to report their findings to President Obama within six months of the Jan. 22 orders, unless the chairmen find an extension is needed.

The orders creating these task forces were part of a package President Obama had promised to reverse the Bush administration's policies, which many believed allowed torture of the terrorism suspects.

  • Obama set to announce economic team
  • Wet harvest adds to cattle farmers’ woes
  • Budget bear takes a bite out of high-tech crime fighting
  • Family of ‘American Taliban’ renews petition to set him free
  • Obama names Oakland attorney to head DOJ Civil Division