Video: Bye-bye, black sites

updated 4/10/2009 6:04:17 AM ET 2009-04-10T10:04:17

CIA Director Leon Panetta has ended the agency's association with private contractors that provided security at secret overseas CIA prisons, according to a message he sent Thursday to agency employees.

The guards will be replaced by CIA officers, which will save up to $4 million, he said.

The CIA refused to provide details about the contract, including what company or companies had been hired to guard the sites.

The secret prisons are now empty, Panetta said. The agency has taken no new prisoners since he became director in February, he said, and the agency is preparing to decommission the prisons permanently.

Still, Panetta wrote, the CIA retains the authority to hold and interrogate prisoners for short periods, and interrogators will be agency employees, not private contractors.

The prisoners will be handed over quickly to the U.S. military or sent to their home countries or countries that have legal claims against them.

President Barack Obama, in one of his first acts in office, ordered the closure of CIA secret prisons overseas and the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He also ended the CIA's separate interrogation program that uses methods harsher than those the allowed by the military.

Between 2002 and 2006, the CIA held and interrogated fewer than 100 prisoners, former CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress last year. It used harsh interrogation methods on about a third of them. Three prisoners were subjected to the waterboard, a form of simulated drowning.

Both the White House and Congress have launched reviews of the CIA's detention practices during the presidency of George W. Bush, Obama's predecessor. The reviews are to determine the legal authority of the Bush-era CIA detention program and to find out exactly what occurred.

More on CIA | Leon Panetta

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