Posted Aug 24, 2009 06:44 pm CDT
Updated: Attorney General Eric Holder has named a federal prosecutor to consider whether to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of some current and former CIA employees for abuses in interrogations of terrorism suspects.
The Washington Post broke the news earlier today that Holder was set to name federal prosecutor John Durham to lead the inquiry. Holder later released a statement appointing Durham, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.
He is the Connecticut career prosecutor already investigating the destruction of videotapes showing terrorism suspects undergoing harsh interrogations. The tape destruction case is before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., but some observers don’t expect charges, according to the Post story.
Sources told the Post that Holder realizes his decision could produce fallout, especially since President Obama has talked about the need to move forward rather than backward in the controversy over harsh interrogations. The inquiry will be limited to no more than a dozen cases, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, and will examine whether there is enough evidence for a broader investigation into law-breaking by CIA interrogators.
Holder said he will not prosecute anyone who “acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance” given by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Past reports have described Durham as a nonpartisan career prosecutor who has pursued government officials and Mafia chiefs.
The New York Times reported earlier today that Holder is being swayed by a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. It recommends reopening nearly a dozen interrogation cases. Meanwhile, a separate 2004 report by the CIA inspector general is expected to be released today. It reportedly says CIA interrogators threatened an al-Qaida commander with a drill and a gun, and staged mock executions, according to Newsweek.
Updated at 7:05 p.m. CT to confirm that Holder had appointed a special prosecutor, as predicted by the Washington Post.