Statute of Limitations in CIA Tape Destruction Case Quietly Passes
By Andrew Ramonas | November 9, 2021 1:02 pm

The Justice Department will not bring charges related to destruction of CIA videotapes that showed the waterboarding of terrorism suspects, a DOJ spokesman said Tuesday.

National Public Radio reported that prosecutors lacked enough evidence to bring charges for the destruction of two tapes showing accused al-Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri undergoing the brutal interrogation methods, NPR reported. Al-Nashiri is accused of planning the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen.

Obstruction charges could still be brought against former or current CIA officials, who may have misled investigators about the tapes, NPR said. But the statute of limitations on a criminal prosecution for the destruction of the tapes expired this week.

In 2008 then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey launched an investigation into the destruction of the tapes, tapping Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham in Connecticut to lead the probe.

In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder increased the scope of Durham’s probe, asking him to investigate the alleged abuse of about a dozen prisoners who were interrogated by CIA personnel or contractors. Holder and President Barack Obama both have called waterboarding torture. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said last year that Holder’s expansion of Durham’s investigation was “political.”

Although Obama has said he expects Holder to exercise independence as the nation’s chief law enforcer, the Attorney General’s national security policies caused strain with the White House as they came under attack by conservatives. Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel considered the Attorney General to be politically tone deaf, according to reports.

Among the Holder decisions that stirred controversy was his release last year of secret Department of Justice memos written during the George W. Bush administration to justify use of the harsh interrogation methods. And Holder’s plan to try alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a New York City federal court was later reversed by the White House after a chorus of bipartisan objections.

This story has been updated.

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