Holder to Appoint Prosecutor to Investigate CIA Terror Interrogations

Aug 24, 2009 3:07pm

ABC News’ Jason Ryan reports: Attorney General Eric Holder is set to name a veteran federal prosecutor to investigate CIA terror interrogations, sources tell ABC News. John Durham, who has been investigating the destruction of the CIA waterboarding tapes, will be charged with reviewing and investigating whether CIA interrogators and contractors violated U.S. torture statutes. The decision comes as the Obama administration releases a 2004 report by the CIA’s then-inspector general into harsh interrogation tactics employed under the Bush administration. Durham is a long time federal prosecutor who is counsel to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. Holder said this will be a preliminary investigation and acknowledged in a written statement that it is likely to cause a good deal of controversy.  “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," the attorney general said, adding that Durham 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." “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," Holder said. The White House said in a statement that, "The president has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back, and the president agrees with the attorney general that those who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance should not be prosecuted. Ultimately, determinations about whether someone broke the law are made independently by the attorney general." The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., called the move a vote of no confidence in the CIA and its director Leon Panetta. “First the White House usurps control over terrorist interrogations, signaling to the world they have lost confidence in Leon Panetta and our intelligence community, and now the Obama Justice Department launches a witch-hunt targeting the terror-fighters who have kept us safe since 9-11," Bond told ABC News in a written statement. "With a criminal investigation hanging over the agency’s head, every CIA terror fighter will be in CYA mode. With things heating up in Afghanistan and Iraq, this looking back and unwarranted 'redo' of prior Justice Department decisions couldn’t come at a worse time for the safety of our troops in harm’s way and our nation.”  Most Americans oppose the appointment of a special prosecutor and an investigation into the treatment of terrorism suspects during the Bush presidency. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in July found that 54 percent of Americans oppose such an investigation, up from 47 percent in April.

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