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The Daily Fray

Criminal Investigation Into Bush-Era Prisoner Deaths Announced

June 30, 2011

Attorney General Eric holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department will launch a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody during the Bush administration, but considers other aspects of the 2008 investigation into the CIA's post-9/11 activities to be settled. Assistant United States Attorney John Durham has been handling the investigations since the beginning and will continue to report his findings up to the attorney general.

Holder said in a statement:

Mr. Durham and his team reviewed a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees. That review included both information and matters that had never previously been examined by the Department. Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals. Those investigations are ongoing. The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.
 

Talking Points Memo was one of the first to report the news. They note that Republicans have criticized the further expansion of the DOJ's reevaluation of the government's handling of suspects in the post-September 11. They're possibly referring to some demands by Republicans in May for Obama to end the Department of Justice's probe into interrogation methods altogether. "You can't have it both ways," Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News. "You can't have the attorney general prosecuting CIA interrogators, by the way, who may have gotten information that may have aided in catching Usama bin Laden. It just doesn't make any sense to me." 

National Journal, however, took Holder's announcement of the investigation into the two deaths to mean an end to the broader probe. Referring to the final sentence in the excerpt from Holder's statement above, Chris Strohm reports, "The announcement ends a wide-ranging probe that has hung over the CIA because of its past use of enhanced interrogation practices, such as waterboarding, that critics say amounted to torture … Instead, Holder decided to conduct a full criminal investigation only regarding the death of two detainees who were held by the CIA."

The wording of Holder's statement is a little unclear. "I concluded based on information available to me then, and continue to believe now, that the Department needed to thoroughly examine the detainee treatment issue," said Holder. "I am confident that Mr. Durham's thorough review has satisfied that need."

News organizations seem to have latched on to the probe into the two deaths more aggressively than the alleged end of the broader investigation into the CIA treatment to detainees. The Associated Press headline reads, "In CIA case, Justice to probe death of 2 detainees."

Holder's full statement:

WASHINGTON - The Attorney General made the following statement today:

"On January 2, 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Assistant United States Attorney John Durham of the District of Connecticut to conduct a criminal investigation into the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the Central Intelligence Agency. On August 24, 2009, based on information the Department received pertaining to alleged CIA mistreatment of detainees, I announced that I had expanded Mr. Durham's mandate to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. I made clear at that time that the Department would 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. Accordingly, Mr. Durham's review examined primarily whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute. 

"In carrying out his mandate, Mr. Durham examined any possible CIA involvement with the interrogation of 101 detainees who were in United States custody subsequent to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a number of whom were determined by Mr. Durham to have never been in CIA custody. He identified the matters to include within his review by examining various sources including the Office of Professional Responsibility's report regarding the Office of Legal Counsel memoranda related to enhanced interrogation techniques, the 2004 CIA Inspector General's report on enhanced interrogations, additional matters investigated by the CIA Office of Inspector General, the February 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross Report on the Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody, and public source information. 

"Mr. Durham and his team reviewed a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees. That review included both information and matters that had never previously been examined by the Department. Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals. Those investigations are ongoing. The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.

"As I noted at the time I announced the expansion of Mr. Durham's authority, 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. However, I concluded based on information available to me then, and continue to believe now, that the Department needed to thoroughly examine the detainee treatment issue. I am confident that Mr. Durham's thorough review has satisfied that need."

Want to add to this story? Comment below or send the author of this post, Adam Clark Estes, an email. Have a hot tip or story idea? Let us know on the Open Wire.

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