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.