Bloomberg News

Holder Orders Criminal Probe of Detainee Deaths in CIA Case

June 30, 2011

(Updates with detainees in third paragraph.)

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Attorney General Eric Holder ordered a criminal investigation into the deaths of two prisoners in U.S. custody overseas following a U.S. Justice Department review of CIA interrogations.

The department determined that an expanded criminal investigation into allegations of CIA mistreatment of other detainees isn’t warranted, Holder said in a statement today.

The probe is examining the 2002 death of Gul Rahman in a facility in Afghanistan and 2003 death of Manadel al-Jamadi at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity and wasn’t authorized to comment publicly. Holder didn’t identify the detainees and Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Holder appointed a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, John Durham, in 2009 to review whether Central Intelligence Agency officials should face criminal charges. Durham examined CIA involvement in the interrogation of 101 detainees who were in U.S. custody after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Durham’s review examined whether CIA interrogators violated prohibitions on torture or used other illegal techniques.

“Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals,” Holder said.

The two deaths were previously examined by federal prosecutors who declined to bring cases, outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a statement.

‘Broader Inquiries’

“I welcome the news that the broader inquiries are behind us,” Panetta said. “We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history.”

The review included matters never previously examined by the department, Holder said. Durham identified cases to include in his review by using government reports, a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other sources, according to the attorney general.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said more cases should have been investigated by the Justice Department.

The investigation of the two deaths “is not at all proportionate to the scale and scope of the wrongdoing,” Jaffer said in an interview. The CIA interrogation program subjected prisoners to “unimaginable cruelty.”

Reigniting Criticism

Holder’s decision to pursue the two cases may reignite criticism from Republicans that he originally faced after announcing the review in 2009.

The Bush administration interrogation practices after Sept. 11 included waterboarding, or simulated drowning, which Holder has described as torture. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has defended the way the Bush administration conducted interrogations, saying the techniques helped save American lives.

The Obama administration released memos written by Bush Justice Department lawyers that authorized use of waterboarding and other methods.

Holder’s statement reiterated previous Obama administration statements that the U.S. wouldn’t prosecute CIA officers who “acted in good faith” and followed the legal guidance given by the Justice Department on interrogations.

--With assistance from Jeff Bliss in Washington. Editors: Jim Rubin, Mark McQuillan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Blum in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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