nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they threatened terrorism suspects.
The article continues…
Durham’s mandate … will be relatively narrow; to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees.
Durham has been probing whether obstruction or false statement laws were violated in connection with the 2005 destruction of CIA videotapes. That inquiry is proceeding before a grand jury.
…deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said that the president had complete faith in Holder and that the decision whether to launch an investigation was the Attorney General’s sole prerogative.
Holder … has concluded in recent days that he has no other choice than to probe whether laws were broken. Fewer than a dozen cases will be examined, most from Iraq and Afghanistan.
This certainly seems to be great news on the torture front. It is interesting that the information comes out on the same day that the infamous 2004 CIA IG’s report is coming out. And, it’s the beginning of the president’ vacation. While there have been whispers that Holder was leaning toward appointing a special prosecutor for a few weeks I wonder if getting the president out of town is a way to distance him from claims of making the issue political (good luck with that).
[update] I’ve seen some discussion on other sites as to whether Durham is really a special prosecutor because he is a DOJ prosecutor, not from outside the department. I have chosen to change the title slightly to reflect that confusion. Frankly, I don’t care what his title is; just as long as he follows the evidence.
Holder’s statement in part:
…As a result of my analysis of all of this material, I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. The Department regularly uses preliminary reviews to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter. I want to emphasize that neither the opening of a preliminary review nor, if evidence warrants it, the commencement of a full investigation, means that charges will necessarily follow.
Assistant United States Attorney John Durham was appointed in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations. During the course of that investigation, Mr. Durham has gained great familiarity with much of the information that is relevant to the matter at hand. Accordingly, I have decided to expand his mandate to encompass this related review. Mr. Durham, who is a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice and who has assembled a strong investigative team of experienced professionals, will recommend to me whether there is sufficient predication for a full investigation into whether the law was violated in connection with the interrogation of certain detainees.
There are those who will use my decision to open a preliminary review as a means of broadly criticizing the work of our nation’s intelligence community. I could not disagree more with that view. The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals.
I share the President’s conviction that as a nation, we must, to the extent possible, look forward and not backward when it comes to issues such as these. While this Department will follow its obligation to take this preliminary step to examine possible violations of law, we will not allow our important work of keeping the American people safe to be sidetracked.
I fully realize that my decision to commence this preliminary review will be controversial. As Attorney General, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law. In this case, given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.
A few members of Congress weigh in:
In just-released statements, Reps John Conyers and Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary committee applaud the decision to probe torture, but add that “it would not be fair or just for frontline personnel to be held accountable while the policymakers and lawyers escape scrutiny after creating and approving conditions where such abuses were all but inevitable to occur.”
Sen Russ Feingold agrees.
And Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, similarly welcomed the investigation, but said: “I still believe that a nonpartisan, independent review is the best way to get the full picture of how our laws were applied or broken.”
While Bush frontman Ari Fleischer doesn’t surprise:
“I think the decision is disgusting,” Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s first press secretary, told the Huffington Post. “It’s amazing to me that the people who kept us safe may now become the people our government prosecutes. There are plenty of real criminals out there — it would be nice if the Justice Department went after them.”
Yes, Ari, like your boss and his