A senior Justice Department official said that Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be narrow in scope, focusing on "whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized" in Bush administration memos that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.In other words, the investigation would largely be a bogus dog and pony show, only worrying about if CIA interrogators went over the line described in memos by John Yoo, Gonzo and John Ashcroft, and that line pretty much allowed everything. What it does not do is even begin to confront the question that the Bush administration's definition of "enhanced interrogation techniques" was actually torture or not.Current and former CIA and Justice Department officials who have firsthand knowledge of the interrogation files contend that criminal convictions will be difficult to obtain because the quality of evidence is poor and the legal underpinnings have never been tested.Opening a criminal investigation is something Holder "has come reluctantly to consider," the Justice Department official said, emphasizing that Holder had not reached a final decision but noting that, "as attorney general, he has the obligation to follow the law."
Some cases have not previously been disclosed, including an instance in which a CIA operative brought a gun into an interrogation booth to force a detainee to talk, officials said.
Other potentially criminal abuses have already come to light, including the waterboarding of prisoners in excess of Justice Department guidelines, and the deaths of detainees in CIA custody in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003.
Others familiar with Holder's thinking say that such an investigation seems all but certain, and that a prosecutor will probably be selected from a short list that Holder asked subordinates to assemble.
And once again, the article is full of warnings to Holder, Obama, and to Democrats not to even think about doing this in any way.
"I don't blame them for wanting to look into it," said a former high-ranking Justice Department official familiar with the details of the program. "But if they appoint a special prosecutor, it would ultimately be unsuccessful, and it would go on forever and cause enormous collateral damage on the way to getting that unsuccessful result."The Village cautions that the Bushies don't want them to do it, the CIA doesn't want them to do it, even the Dirty F'ckin Hippies don't want them to do it, so why do it?
Bracing for the worst, a small number of CIA officials have put off plans to retire or leave the agency so that they can maintain their access to classified files and be in a better position to defend against a Justice investigation.
"Once you're out, it gets a lot harder," said a retired CIA official who said he had spoken recently with former colleagues. The inquiry would probably also target private contractors who worked for the CIA during the interrogations.
Current and former U.S. officials interviewed for this article spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy that still surrounds Holder's deliberations and the details of the interrogation files.
President Obama has repeatedly expressed reluctance to launch a criminal investigation of the interrogation program, but has left room for the prosecution of individuals who may have broken the law.
Obama and Holder have both said that they believe waterboarding constitutes torture. But an investigation would pose thorny political problems for the administration, and probably draw criticism over questions of fairness.
"An investigation that focuses only on low-ranking operators would be, I think, worse than doing nothing at all," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
An inquiry also would probably drive a new wedge between the CIA and the Justice Department, agencies with a fractious history that have struggled to work more closely together since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Remember, just one day after a Newsweek article warning Holder and Obama that such an investigation would cost the President dearly on his domestic agenda, the Senate revolted against passing a bill before the August recess. That warning was repeated ten days later in the NY Times the day of the president's July 22 press conference. After the second warning, the rhetoric against the President's health care agenda was stepped up again to its current level. The Senate and House kicked the can down the road to September, and now there's a long, brutal month of August recess shenanigans to go through.
A third warning has now been delivered. Should Obama and Holder continue to stay silent and refuse to confirm or deny these rumors of an investigation, will there be another escalation against his health care reform agenda, and what will it be?
There are no coincidences in Washington. Not at this level of the game.
Since those two warnings four weeks ago, Obamacare has been brutalized, savaged, and left for dead. The recess PR war is now on, and the Village has at least noted the conservative astroturf thuggery (while condemning both sides of course). If the pattern holds, Obama officials will be asked about this on the Sunday shows, they will say nothing, and the tenor of the media reports on the Town Hall Blitzes will take a decidedly and almost universally anti-Obama tone for the rest of the recess...unless somebody starts assuring the Wise Men of Washington that Eric Holder will not be appointing a special anything to look into torture.
Watch carefully. I've maintained for a while now that the Holder investigation into torture is the real issue, and that Obamacare is just a proxy fight. We'll see if I'm right very soon.