Holder tapping prosecutor to probe ‘nearly a dozen’ CIA interrogations
Posted By Stephen C. Webster On August 24, 2009 @ 2:17 pm
Inspector general’s report says CIA agents threatened to kill suspects’ children
America’s torture debate is nowhere near over.
“Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move,” Carrie Johnson reports in The Washington Post.
The appointment comes on the same day the Obama administration  released a less-redacted version of an inspector general report detailing CIA abuses.
“The report says one interrogator threatened to kill the children of a Sept. 11 suspect, and another may have threatened to [sexually] assault a suspect’s mother in front of him,”  the Associated Press reported.
The  report also revealed the assault of a religious school teacher and an “improvised action” by one agent who compressed a prisoner’s carotid artery with both hands around the detainee’s neck.
According to the Post, “John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut,” is being tapped “to lead the high-stakes inquiry, added the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not yet complete.”
The New York Times added: “President Obama does not intend to voice his preference for whether anyone is prosecuted from prisoner abuse cases, a White House spokesman said Monday, and will allow Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to make the decision.”
Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton told reporters Monday that the president had complete faith in Holder and that the decision whether to launch an investigation was the attorney general’s sole prerogative.
“The White House supports the attorney general making the decisions on who gets prosecuted and investigated,” Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said, according to the Post.
Durham is no stranger to hard-slog prosecutions. A 30-plus-year veteran, he was most recently appointed by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate the CIA’s destruction of terror war interrogation tapes.
When Mukasey selected Durham, Talking Points Memo posted a  brief outline of his work history, quoting the Associated Press as saying that he’s “one of the nation’s most relentless prosecutors.”
Durham’s investigation of the missing or destroyed CIA interrogation tapes is ongoing, and several high-ranking officials have testified before a federal grand jury in Virginia.  That investigation is ongoing.
“Mr. Durham has shrouded his investigation in a level of secrecy rare even by the normally tight-lipped standards of special prosecutors, and after 18 months it is still difficult to assess either the direction or the targets of his investigation,”  The New York Times reported in July.
The Post’s report is the first confirmation that the Justice Department will open a formal investigation into the CIA’s alleged torture of terror war prisoners.
“Responsibility for the torture program cannot be laid at the feet of a few low-level operatives,” read a Center for Constitutional Rights statement on the matter. “Some agents in the field may have gone further than the limits so ghoulishly laid out by the lawyers who twisted the law to create legal cover for the program, but it is the lawyers and the officials who oversaw and approved the program who must be investigated.”
The watchdog group added: “We call on the Obama administration not to tie a prosecutor’s hands but to let the investigation go as far up the chain of command as the facts lead. We must send a clear message to the rest of the world, to future officials, and to the victims of torture that justice will be served and that the rule of law has been restored.”
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