The U.S. government said Thusday that it had closed its investigation into the alleged torture of more than 100 detainees held by the CIA in overseas prisons, and the deaths of two men who died while in CIA custody, without prosecuting anyone.
The Justice Department's announcement Thursday that it would not bring charges in the deaths of terror suspects Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi formally ended a multi-year probe by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham into the CIA's controversial "enhanced interrogation" program.
"Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt." Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Rahman, a suspected Afghan militant, died in 2002 in a CIA prison known as the Salt Pit when he was left shackled to a cement floor in a near freezing room. Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi died in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 only hours after he was captured by the military.
In a statement, ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer called the Justice Department's decision "nothing short of a scandal."
"The Justice Department has declined to bring charges against the officials who authorized torture, the lawyers who sought to legitimate it, and the interrogators who used it," said Jaffer. "It has successfully shut down every legal suit meant to hold officials civilly liable. … Today's decision not to file charges against individuals who tortured prisoners to death is yet another entry in what is already a shameful record."
Former CIA director Michael Hayden applauded the decision to close the inquiry. "I am heartened that this is closed," said Hayden. "I am heartened by the outcome. I had confidence in Mr. Durham's fairness. I am sorry that CIA officers had to go through yet another review of their activities."
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee authorized harsh tactics to interrogate captured Al Qaeda members in a 2002 legal memo. A December 2004 memo rescinded that guidance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Durham was initially appointed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey in January 2008 to investigate the destruction of waterboarding videotapes by CIA official Jose Rodriguez. The tapes purportedly showed CIA agents using harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects. No charges were filed at the conclusion of that investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder expanded Durham's investigation in August 2009 to review harsh interrogation tactics and potential cases where CIA interrogators used tactics that had not been approved by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Former CIA directors and former Vice President Dick Cheney criticizing Holder for expanding the inquiry.
Last year Durham informed Holder he was closing many aspects of the investigation but recommended convening a federal grand jury to investigate the deaths of Rahman and Al-Jamadi.
Jose Rodriguez said Thursday that he was "gratified to learn of today's turn of events."
"The decision announced today is consistent with similar decisions made during the previous administration," said Rodriguez. "The deaths of these two individuals many years ago were indeed unfortunate. It should be noted, however, that neither individual was involved in the controversial -- but in my view necessary and productive -- enhanced interrogation program."
In a message to CIA employees, current CIA director David Petraeus thanked them for their cooperation with the investigation.
Attorney General Holder said that he had asked Durham to undertake the expanded investigation because of the need for a "thorough examination of the detainee treatment issue," and that Durham had "satisfied that need." However, he also said that inquiry was limited to "whether prosecutable offenses were committed and was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct."