June 30, 2011 -- The U.S. Justice Department announced today it is closing all of its investigations into the Central Intelligence Agency's controversial enhanced interrogation program without further legal action, except in the case of two incidents in which detainees perished.
The investigations by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham into the alleged mistreatment of detainees by the CIA, which covered the experiences of more than 100 detainees, concluded that, not including the two fatal cases, "an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a press release. Beyond finding that the CIA officers acted "in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance" given them, in some instances, Durham found the detainees were never in CIA custody at all.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said had been informed of the Department's findings and he "welcomed" the news.
"We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency's history," he said. "As Director, I have always believed that our primary responsibility is not to the past, but to the present and future threats to the nation."
Panetta, who is on his last day as the spy chief before heading to his new job as the Secretary of Defense, said the agency will "of course" continue to cooperate in the two cases of detainee death that Holder said required further investigation. Earlier this month, Time Magazine reported Durham had begun calling witnesses before a secret federal grand jury concerning his investigation into the 2003 death of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, known as "the Iceman."
The inquiry into the CIA's interrogation program initially grew out of a 2008 probe into whether the CIA had purposefully destroyed nearly 100 interrogation tapes. The tapes purportedly show CIA agents using harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, on terror suspects. No charges were filed at the conclusion of that investigation.
The use of such enhanced interrogation techniques and the ensuing scandal created such tension between the White House and the CIA that at one point in a heated argument in 2009, Panetta reportedly threatened to quit his post. More recently, controversy surrounding the technique reemerged after several former officials said that it was key to gaining the intelligence that led to the successful operation against al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- a claim vehemently disputed by others including Sen. John McCain, who was himself a torture victim during the Vietnam War.