Independence is Needed in CIA Investigation

January 16, 2008 12:00 am

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Durham too closely tied to DOJ to be effective


WASHINGTON – As the House Select Intelligence Committee meets today for a closed-door hearing into the CIA destruction of interrogation videotapes, the American Civil Liberties Union reiterates its call for Attorney General Mukasey to appoint an outside special prosecutor. Two weeks ago, the attorney general launched a criminal investigation into the tapes’ destruction, headed by Deputy U.S. Attorney John Durham. Just yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee also sent a letter to the attorney general requesting a special counsel investigation.

“Attorney General Mukasey should concede that the Durham investigation fails on two fronts: it is neither independent from the Justice Department, nor does it seek to discover the full scope of potential criminal wrongdoing in the decision to destroy the tapes,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Americans are growing ever more tired of the damage control mentality of this administration. We deserve a full and honest investigation into just how far up the ladder the authorization to conduct the interrogations and the subsequent destruction went. The possibility of obstruction of justice is no small matter and the time has come for a top-to-bottom investigation of the Administration’s role in torture.”

The ACLU argues that the Durham investigation does not represent the independence from the Department of Justice that is needed. The investigation also fails to be broad enough. This matter goes well beyond simply the destruction of the tapes. The content of the tapes needs to be considered, as well as any obstruction of justice that may have been committed.

“The ACLU has led the charge in again calling for an independent prosecutor in this most recent instance, concerning the CIA interrogation videotapes,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Christopher Anders. “The time for appointing an independent prosecutor is long overdue. The ACLU first requested one three years ago during the Gonzales confirmation fight. Americans should not have to wait for a new president to get a full investigation of whether anyone committed war crimes or violated anti-torture laws.”

The ACLU is also in federal court today asking a judge to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying the interrogation tapes. In response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the ACLU and other organizations in October 2003 and May 2004, a judge ordered the government to produce or identify all records pertaining to the treatment of detainees in its custody overseas. The CIA defied the court order when it neglected to identify the tapes and ultimately destroyed them in 2005.

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