July 12th, 2009
05:27 PM ET
5 years ago

Source: Holder considers prosecutor to probe interrogations

CNN has learned that Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate the interrogation practices of the George W. Bush administration.
CNN has learned that Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate the interrogation practices of the George W. Bush administration.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Attorney General Eric Holder is leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's interrogation practices, a source familiar with the process confirmed to CNN.

The source did not want to be identified by name because the process is ongoing, and no decision has been made.

Newsweek, which first reported Holder's inclination to name a prosecutor, also reported that the attorney general has asked his staff for a list of 10 candidates who might serve as that prosecutor if one is named.

A Justice Department official told CNN a decision could come in the next few weeks. The official, who also did not want to be named because of the ongoing process, said that if the attorney general does proceed, it will be a very "narrowly tailored" investigation, looking at only those who might have gone beyond the legal guidance at the time in conducting interrogations.

Such an investigation would counter public statements by President Barack Obama that the nation needs to look forward and not back.

"We have made no decisions on investigations or prosecutions, including whether to appoint a prosecutor to conduct further inquiry," Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement Sunday.

Bush administration memos released in April show government lawyers ruled that the use of sleep deprivation, close confinement and waterboarding would not violate U.S. laws banning torture unless interrogators had the "specific intent to inflict severe pain and suffering."

Critics say the memos opened the door to the torture of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody. Waterboarding in particular has been considered a form of torture since the Spanish Inquisition, and U.S. authorities prosecuted Japanese officers who used the techniques against American prisoners in World War II.

A secret 2004 report by the CIA inspector general that describes potentially illegal interrogation techniques is scheduled to be made public on August 31. In addition, a Justice Department ethics report on Bush administration lawyers who drafted legal documents supporting harsh interrogation practices also is in the works.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has argued against an investigation of interrogation techniques in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks, calling the program both legal and successful.

Miller's statement noted that Holder has previously said "it would be unfair to prosecute any official who acted in good faith based on legal guidance from the Justice Department." Any decision by Holder would always "follow the facts and the law," it said.

On Sunday talk shows, Democrats and Republicans differed on the need for an investigation of alleged U.S. torture.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that a special investigation would only publicize "bad things" that harm America's image in the world.

"We all know that the operatives who did it, most likely, were under orders to do it," McCain said.

"Do we want America's image harmed by dragging this out further and further?" he continued, calling photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq the "greatest recruiting tool" for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York told the same program that the severity of the violations should determine the need for an investigation.

"When there are egregious violations, you can't just brush them under the rug," Schumer said, adding that Holder was right to consider a probe.

–CNN's Terry Frieden and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.


Filed under: Eric Holder • Justice Department • Popular Posts
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Zero.

    A Biased Democrate. What will that prove.

    July 12, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  2. Nija

    Cheney will be the first to be interrogated and Karl Rove second.

    July 12, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  3. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    Please appoint someone. We have to get to the bottom of our failure to live up to our values. We need to know what happened and make sure it never happens again. This issue, again, should not be a partisan one.

    July 12, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  4. GOP

    This man is a joke. To say he has no idea if he will prosecute any one is a lie!

    He knows that is part of the Obama agenda. Keep rehashing the past to cover up what Obama and his party are doing right now.

    We have seen this movie before when Bill was in hot water and had to bomb a few buildings in Iraq to get the press off his case.

    The problem is no matter if there was any wrong doing or not they will keep this going so no one gets on Obama and how bad he is doing his job.

    July 12, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  5. Peter (CA)

    Yes, Zero, the right wingers do no wrong.

    As badly as I want to see a sociopath like Cheney get what he deserves, Obama is right again. All an investigation will do is further polarize this country as the right wingers scream about bias. Nothing will get done.

    The Democrats need to tread smartly.

    July 12, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. James Gilson

    This clown is a disgrace to the legal profession. I can't understand whay this administration has to keep on probing into the Bush years. There is enough work to do on present problems and that is where the work should be done. The blame Bush game and "I inherited" has gone far enough.

    July 12, 2009 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  7. James Gilson

    Holder has one cheerleader in Schumer from NY. Schumer has yet to make a contribution to the country. Without the outcry of noted Democrats, this position of Holder will pass but they like to kee things going.

    Do a little more investigations on the Speaker of the House, there may be some interesting items there. Possibility lies that she is a liar in many ways.

    July 12, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. AlwaysThinking

    Hear, hear! The only way to find out the truth about what happened and regain our values is to honestly investigate this situation.

    July 12, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  9. GuyInVA

    Thank God, a special prosecutor to after the opposing political party. For a second there I was afraid that instead of actually pursuing justice, this might get political. Whew!

    July 12, 2009 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |