The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsiblity has recommended that Attorney General Eric Holder reopen nearly a dozen CIA prisoner-abuse cases, a person briefed on the matter told The New York Times. Read the NYT story here.
The revelation arrives at the confluence of several events that mark a further break with the Bush administration on the hot-button issue of interrogations.
The Washington Post reported in today’s paper that President Obama has approved a special terrorism interrogation team that would be housed at the FBI but report directly to the National Security Council, shifting oversight from the CIA to the White House. The special interrogation team, named the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, will comprise experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies and likely be headed by an FBI official, a senior administration official told the Post.
Also, the Obama administration is set to release today a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report detailing prisoner abuse.
But it is the long-awaited OPR report that is likely to have the most consequences. According to the Times, it is now all but certain that Holder will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the alleged CIA abuses, despite Obama’s stated preference to move on.
The OPR report also examined the legal reasoning of the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who authorized interrogation techniques that Holder himself has called torture. It has already been reported that OPR recommended referrals to local bar associations for possible discipline against the OLC lawyers, but further information on the report’s conclusions about the OLC lawyers isn’t known yet.
According to the Times, the part of the OPR report focusing on detainee abuse will be made public after classified information is deleted. The allegations center on incidents reported mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Times said.
Said the Times:
“The cases represent about half of those that were initially investigated and referred to the Justice Department by the C.I.A.’s inspector general, but were later closed. It is not known which cases might be reopened.”
The news of the OPR recommendations follows reports of CIA abuses, including officers carrying out mock executions and threatening at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill. Under anti-torture statutes, it’s a violation of federal law to threaten a prisoner with imminent death, the Times said.