Some of the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogators now facing potential criminal prosecution for how they interrogated alleged terrorists have already been disciplined by the CIA, according to officials familiar with the matter.
The CIA's disciplinary actions were taken in the 2004-05 time frame, after the Justice Department reviewed a still-classified CIA inspector general report on the agency's interrogation program.
At the time, career Department of Justice prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia decided not to prosecute the CIA interrogators, referring their cases back to the agency for possible non-legal disciplinary action.
Among the cases that the Justice Department decided not to prosecute include:
The death of Iraqi general Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who died in November 2003 after being beaten and stuffed headfirst in a sleeping bag at the U.S. military base in al Asad, Iraq.
The death of a prisoner who died of hypothermia at a CIA prison in Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit.
After the Justice Department decided against prosecuting these cases in 2004, the CIA accountability board reviewed the inspector general report and decided to slap an administrative punishment on some of the interrogators. Officials would not say what the punishments were, nor how many individuals were punished.
Now, Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a special prosecutor to conduct a criminal investigation into whether CIA interrogators broke the law and tortured captured terrorists, going beyond the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, that were approved by the Bush administration.
The attorney general's actions have some in the intelligence community asking why he would reopen the cases years after they had already been reviewed by career prosecutors.
Asked about the attorney general's possible appointment of a special prosecutor, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said today, "The Department of Justice knows -- and has known for years -- the details of CIA's past interrogation practices. This has all been reviewed and dealt with before. It has also had for years the CIA inspector general's report on detention and interrogation. Based on that material and that knowledge, Justice decided when to prosecute and when not to prosecute. This has all been reviewed and dealt with before."
The only CIA interrogator prosecuted was David Passaro, a contractor who was charged in July 2004 with assault in the death of a detainee in Afghanistan named Abdul Wali. Passaro was found guilty in 2006 and sentenced to eight years in prison.
New questions have been raised in recent days about a separate secret CIA program that was designed to target senior al-Qaeda leadership.
Revelations about that secret counterterrorism intelligence program have stirred controversy among congressional legislators who have demanded to know what it entailed and why it was kept secret from Congress for nearly eight years after going into the planning stages shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
One Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said CIA Director Leon Panetta told them that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the program be kept secret and that CIA directors agreed, placing Cheney squarely at the center of the controversy.