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CIA interrogator ‘threatened to kill 9/11 suspect’s children’

By David Usborne

CIA interrogators threatened to kill the children of a September 11 suspect, a newly-declassified CIA report has said.

The document, released by the Justice Department, revealed that one interrogator said a colleague told Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that if any other attacks happened in the United States, “we're going to kill your children”.

Another interrogator allegedly tried to convince a different terror suspect detainee that his mother would be sexually assaulted in front of him — though the interrogator denied making such a threat.

The report, written in 2004, examined CIA treatment of terror detainees following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

It has been declassified as part of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has ordered the creation of a new interrogations unit which, under direct White House supervision, will take charge of the questioning of so-called “high value” terror detainees and research new ways of prying information out of captives without violating anti-torture and human rights laws.

Officials who are with the US President on his holiday at Martha's Vineyard confirmed he had approved plans for the new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. It will be based in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office and will adhere strictly to the 19 questioning guidelines laid out in the Army Field Manual.

The change, which stems from a broad review of the handling of terror suspects and plans for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, will take at least some of the burden away from the Central Intelligence Agency, which more than ever is in the crosshairs for the apparent abuse of prisoners of the US overseas in the years after the 9/11 attacks.

The Attorney General, Eric Holder, is expected to decide within days whether he should open a formal investigation into prisoner abuse in that period. Such a step could lead to the prosecution of former and current CIA employees, outside contractors and ex-Justice Department employees of the Bush administration.

When Mr Holder first read the CIA's 2004 report, authored by its then Inspector General, it is said that he was so disgusted by its contents that he resolved to open a probe of past abuses.

It was being reported yesterday that an ethics panel within the Justice Department formally recommended to Mr Holder several weeks ago that an investigation should be opened, for which he would probably appoint a special prosecutor. At the same time, the Justice Department was preparing last night to release a declassified version of a 2004 internal CIA report with disturbing details of abuses in overseas prisons, including mock executions.

Mr Obama has indicated that he would prefer not to dwell on past mistakes but rather on the future. A White House spokesman, Bill Burton, told reporters, however, that the President would not intervene and that it remained entirely a matter for the Attorney General. “He ultimately is going to make the decisions,” Mr Burton said of Mr Holder.

The CIA report, which was to be published with some classified sections still blacked out, was expected to offer more information on how the Field Manual guidelines on the treatment of prisoners got smudged under the watch of George Bush. One interrogator was recalled from abroad for taking a gun into a questioning session. Although he was disciplined by the CIA, the Justice Department declined to prosecute.

A spokesman for the CIA, Paul Gimigliano, said the fact that such cases had been referred to the Justice Department in the first place “speaks to the strength of the safeguards that existed”. All the interrogators used at secret overseas jails “were carefully chosen and trained”, he added, saying: “Examples of inappropriate behaviour in the high-value detainee programme were, to my knowledge, rather rare indeed.”

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