DOJ to Limit Criminal Investigations of CIA Abuses

Attorney General Eric Holder took months to decide on whether to investigate any cases of abuse of detainees overseas with an eye towards criminal prosecution. He got a lot of praise (and in some venues, criticism) when he announced he'd consider it. The Washington Post reports the number of cases the DOJ may prosecute is down from more than a dozen to just a few .

A senior official who took part in the review confirmed that of two dozen referrals, the Salt Pit episode was one of two or three cases close to being considered for criminal indictment.


Why? Problems with jurisdiction. And because prosecutors believe "that material collected on battlefields and in secret prisons [is] difficult to translate into a criminal case, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt." (Interesting that we have jurisdiction over a teenage Somali pirate but not an American contractor working for the CIA. ) Nor were there were jurisdictional problems prosecuting John Walker Lindh for what he did on the battlefield in Afghanistan -- and the U.S. refuses to give up on prosecuting Canadian Omar Khadr who was 15 when captured in Afghanistan. Go figure.

And what took Holder so long to decide? I thought he was studying the cases closely. Not according to the Washington Post, which says Republicans are angry at him for his decision to consider referrals for prosecution because he didn't read the files:

Before his decision to reopen the cases, Holder did not read detailed memos that prosecutors drafted and placed in files to explain their decision to decline prosecutions, an issue that has rankled GOP lawmakers and some career lawyers in the Justice Department who question whether Holder's order was made based on the facts or on his political instincts.

Remember what Holder said when he decided on the review:

"I have reviewed the OPR report in depth. Moreover, I have closely examined the full, still-classified version of the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report, as well as other relevant information available to the Department.

As a result of my analysis of all of this material, I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.

Remember this Newsweek article describing how Holder poured over the documents night after night and they made him sick to his stomach? After all that, DOJ is going to investigate two or three cases?

If it weren't a serious matter, I'd be laughing at the officals' attempt to play defense lawyer on behalf of the abusers. Can you imagine any defense lawyer arguing clogged arteries caused "the death seven years ago of a young Afghan man, who was beaten and chained to a concrete floor without blankets"? This is "the man who "died in the cold night at a secret CIA facility north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit." (my emphasis)

"A lot of times cases look open-and-shut because a guy froze to death on a cold cement floor, but these cases are more complicated and involved than that," said a government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You have to prove the cause of death. How do we know he froze to death? He may have died a natural death from clogged arteries. You have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he died as a result of the actions of the people who tied him to the floor naked. It may be a logical inference, but proving it beyond a reasonable doubt might be a different story."

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  • Display: Sort:
    It's the Twinkie defense in a new disguise. (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Radiowalla on Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:20:49 PM EST
    Do we really expect justice in these cases?  
    Not so much.  

    I don't know why they even bothered. (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Anne on Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:26:13 PM EST
    This doesn't even rise to the level of lip service.


    Lip service, we should be so lucky, eh? (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 02:59:13 PM EST
    Here's what puzzles me. The fact that there are still people who believe that the continuation, and ramping up, of Bush era policies is somehow less malign now that the Obama Administration is doing it.

    I mean, if the policy is the same, and the actions and the outcomes are the same, how can anybody be deluded enough to imagine that the intent is NOT the same.

    Evidently, it is now safe to acknowledge most of the foregoing, but the commonsense conclusion is still something we are not yet allowed to express in polite company.


    Yeah, I don't get it either. (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Anne on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 03:06:28 PM EST
    And I think what really offends me is that for all the hype about how "sickened" Holder was after reading the reports, this is all he can muster up in the way of action?  

    Not only does it reduces Holder's display of emotion to little more than crocodile tears, but it seems a little too reminiscent of the way Obama always comes out strong on an issue, but when push comes to shove, just caves in the end.

    I was really hoping that there would be a strong and concerted effort to roll baok the Bush policies and make clear that they do not represent who we are; instead, they are being legitimized, and that does not bode well for the future.


    Part of the problem is that the schtick (5.00 / 4) (#8)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 04:01:08 PM EST
    is somewhat unprecedented even though it is hidden in plain view.

    We are relatively unaccustomed to having a Democrat, like Obama, who so expertly, and disingenuously, cultivates the appearance and sound of a hip and cool progressive politician - with a 'radical' past to boot. The charade has been particularly effective at masking the fact that he intends to govern far to the right of his image and his rhetoric.

    Really, that sleight of hand is something we more commonly see from Republicans. Like Reagan, who cultivated a self-deprecating, folksy, earnest affability to mask a draconian agenda. Or GW Bush, who was intensively marketed in 2000 as a compassionate conservative - all the better to mask his intent to wage holy wars and inquisitions straight out of the middle ages.

    As W said when he mashed together an old adage and song lyrics from The Who: "fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again". Now it looks like the electorate was "fooled again" in 2004 and fooled, yet again, in 2008.


    He's a good salesman (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Edger on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:34:50 AM EST
    Too bad he doesn't have a better product.

    When is he changing his name? (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Edger on Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 10:46:37 PM EST
    To Eric Mukasey?

    Perhaps if they hadn't beaten (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by nycstray on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 07:21:16 AM EST
    and chained the guy to a freezing cold floor, they may have noticed the symptoms of clogged arteries and the guy would still be alive.

    Symptoms Of Blocked Arteries:

        * Angina pectoris or a severe pain in the chest

        * Heart attack, caused by artery blockage

        * Pain and/or discomfort in the center of the chest

        * Shortness of breath and a choking sensation

        * Nausea and vomiting

        * Excessive sweating

        * Cold and pale skin texture

    Coincidence too, that all of (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 07:08:45 PM EST
    the symptoms you listed would also manifest under a number of 'harsh interrogation techniques'. Namely, stress positions (hanging by the arms); walling; water boarding; extreme heat; extreme cold, etc.

    This all makes me FURIOUS. I keep wondering what it will take to reach an irreversible tipping point in public opinion.

    Please sometime before I croak, Elizabeth Warren for VP, Glenn Greenwald for Attorney General - who for POTUS?    


    Could the DOJ FAILURE TO PROSECUTE (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 02:29:55 PM EST
    ever be construed as a war crime, and prosecuted as such, by any entity on earth. I mean, after hell has frozen over in lieu of all the melted ice caps. (I'm serious about the legal question.)

    By my count, there are 5 people who've (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by FoxholeAtheist on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 04:39:24 AM EST
    commented on this thread and two others (sallywally and No Blood for Hubris) who have taken the time to read and positively rate the comments. My gawd, I feel so alone but greatly appreciate the present company and your concern for the issue at hand.