Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Hello Mr. Durham, "Special" Prosecutor [Updated x2]

The Washington Post has breaking news that Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to name John Durham prosecutor to look into

nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they threatened terrorism suspects.

Who Would Jesus Torture

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).

The Constitution in Peril

Jail to the Chief

[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 boss VP.


  1. Hollede

    Thank you so much for posting this. It is a good start, but I hope that the real culprits are exposed. “Just following orders” does not cut it with me, but will those who wrote the orders be brought to justice?

  2. and the way the blogosphere is treating it is that they are going after the footsoldiers and giving a pass to the people that are really responsible for this abhorrent policy. I’m not so sure that’s true.

    This may actually lead to demands for prosecutions of those higher up the food chain. The first thing the lower-level grunts are going to do is try to make a deal. They will be naming names and turning over evidence, like memos and saved emails that will implicate the people that ordered the torture and abuse. Once that info starts coming out the demand for more in-depth investigations is bound to get stronger.

    At least, that’s my hope and it may just be what Holder and Obama are hoping for too.

  3. HappyinVT

    A month before Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told a town hall audience that there is not enough evidence that President Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen, he told an interviewer that he believes Obama was “born in Hawaii.”

    According to the Mohave Daily News, on Sunday, Franks told a town hall audience in Kingman, Ariz., that there is conflicting evidence as to whether the president was born in the United States. According to the report, the Republican congressman called on Obama to produce his birth certificate and threatened to sue the president over the issue.

    Read more:

  4. creamer

     I’m not a fan of only prosecuting worker bee’s, but if you’ve held somones head under water or beat them bloody, you proably won’t find me too sympathetic either. As John mentioned earlier you start at the bottom of the ladder to gain evidence on those higher up the ladder. And this administration owes nothing to those who torture wich should dissuade anyone from hoping for a pardon.

  5. anna shane

    they get the little guys, who roll over and they get bigger ones who roll over. that’s the way they go.  It has a wash my hands of it flavor to it, but that’s okay, we should have investigations driven by congress and our legal team, not by politics, Barack thinks the distraction is a mistake, and he doesn’t want to scare those Americans who continued to believe in George W and think he got a bad rap, but he says he’ll keep his hands off it and let the chips fall where they may.  

    I’d like to see him lower the burden of vetting on those experts and professionals who are experienced in public service, but don’t want to hire lawyers and spend their money to get into the vetting process.  I think letting prosecutions go forward perhaps should allow him to make appointments without all possible vetting, and perhaps find some scandal down the road, over this vetting process that is keeping many of the best and most experienced out of it, since they’re willing to serve, and willing to divest themselves of any possible conflicts, and take a cut in income, but not willing to hire lawyers and fight just to be considered.  

  6. But I basically thanked you for a diary I wanted to write. I’m moving house at the moment, like Chris B, and John Allen earlier, but moves like this (and the pledge to join the ICC) go a long way to restoring the US’s prestige abroad, so withered by the Bush years, and thus the US’s influence.

    Well done HappyinVT, and welcome to the front page!

  7. NavyBlueWife

    And in related news…

    In a reversal of Pentagon policy, the military for the first time is notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross of the identities of militants who were being held in secret at a camp in Iraq and another in Afghanistan run by United States Special Operations forces, according to three military officials.

    The change begins to lift the veil from the American government’s most secretive remaining overseas prisons by allowing the Red Cross to track the custody of dozens of the most dangerous suspected terrorists and foreign fighters plucked off the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I am liking the transparency in government…

  8. DTOzone

    that’s just me…it’s risky to undergo this type of investigation in the middle of legislative fights like this one. We risk losing the meat of the story to a “Obama looks to indict past administration because he can’t get anything passed” storyline.  

  9. until the end of August. He felt strongly enough about this issue to write a lengthy post about it. Say what you will about Sully – his CDS,  his Hillary hate, his original support for the Iraq war, his blindness to how his Catholic faith influences his arguments about abortion, etc… – but his heart is often in the right place.

    Ending paragraphs:

    But it need not be the end of the story. Indeed, it can be the beginning if we make it so. We cannot stop this sad and minuscule attempt to restore a scintilla of accountability to some individuals low down on the totem pole. Eric Holder is d[o]ing what he can. But we can continue to lobby and argue for the extension of accountability to the truly guilty men who made all this happen and still refuse to take responsibilty for war crimes on a coordinated scale never before seen in American warfare, and initiated by a presidential decision to withdraw from the Geneva Conventions and refuse to abide by their plain meaning and intent.

    Our job, in other words, is to raise the core moral baseline of Americans to that of Iranians. That’s the depth of the hole Cheney dug. And it’s a hole the current GOP wants to dig deeper and darker.

  10. DTOzone

    at ABC. They had a meeting. This story, according to them, will “put the President against a wall”

    After hearing what they said came out of that meeting (something really sobering was “trump up the CIA documents that corroborate Cheney’s claims to increase the Cheney vs. Obama effect”)

    One of my friends described it as a “trap set by the media that Obama is waltzing into”

    Drop it, drop it now. If we really want to do this, wait until the end of his term.

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