DOJ launches criminal investigation into deaths of CIA detainees

The Justice Department has launched a full criminal investigation to determine whether CIA interrogators broke the law while questioning two suspected terrorists who died overseas in U.S. custody.

The news came on Thursday as Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ is declining to investigate the rest of the nearly 100 cases that have been under review by prosecutor John Durham for almost two years.

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“Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals,” said Holder in a statement.

“Those investigations are ongoing. The department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.”

Durham’s lengthy probe into 101 instances of alleged detainee abuse shook the CIA. and the U.S. intelligence community, and spawned the fear that agents in the field could be punished for carrying out decisions allegedly recommended by President George W. Bush’s administration. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.), the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, heralded Holder’s announcement on Thursday, saying that it would alleviate a great deal of anxiety within U.S. intelligence agencies.

“I am pleased that the Department of Justice has finally substantially lifted an undeserved cloud of doubt and suspicion from all of our intelligence professionals,” Rogers said in a statement.

“I hope that this decision will allow our intelligence professionals to move forward with their critical work free from the chilling effect of further investigation, and with the deserved full confidence of the American people.”

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Holder said that Durham meticulously combed through “a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees,” including the Office of Professional Responsibility’s report regarding the Office of Legal Counsel memoranda related to enhanced interrogation techniques, the 2004 C.I.A. Inspector General’s report on enhanced interrogations, and the February 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody.

Rogers called on Holder to conduct the criminal investigation announced on Thursday in a responsible manner.

"I expect that the criminal investigation announced today will be continued in a manner fully consistent with the principle reaffirmed by the Attorney General that we will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal advice," said Rogers.