Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Wednesday that the Justice Department had elevated its inquiry into the destruction of Central Intelligence Agency interrogation videotapes to a formal criminal investigation headed by a career federal prosecutor.
The announcement is the first indication that investigators have concluded on a preliminary basis that C.I.A. officers, possibly along with other government officials, may have committed criminal acts in their handling of the tapes, which recorded the interrogations in 2002 of two operatives with Al Qaeda and were destroyed in 2005.
C.I.A. officials have for years feared becoming entangled in a criminal investigation involving alleged improprieties in secret counterterrorism programs. Now, the investigation and a probable grand jury inquiry will scrutinize the actions of some of the highest-ranking current and former officials at the agency.
The tapes were never provided to the courts or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had requested all C.I.A. documents related to Qaeda prisoners. The question of whether to destroy the tapes was for nearly three years the subject of deliberations among lawyers at the highest levels of the Bush administration. [complete article]
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee warned in a 2003 letter that destroying videotapes of terrorist interrogations would put the CIA under a cloud of suspicion, according to a newly declassified copy of the letter.
“Even if the videotape does not constitute an official record that must be preserved under the law, the videotape would be the best proof that the written record is accurate, if such record is called into question in the future,” Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., wrote in a Feb. 10, 2003 letter to then-CIA general counsel Scott Muller. “The fact of destruction would reflect badly on the agency.”
Harman’s office released the declassified letter on Thursday, a day after the Justice Department announced it had opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes. The letter notes that a copy also went to then-CIA Director George Tenet. [complete article]
John H. Durham, who was appointed yesterday to lead a criminal probe into the destruction of the CIA’s interrogation tapes, oversaw corruption charges against a Republican governor in Connecticut, put away FBI agents in Boston and prosecuted many of New England’s Mafia bosses.
Former colleagues said the deputy U.S. attorney is known for seeking maximum sentences, shunning plea bargains and avoiding the spotlight. Four friends said they could not recall him losing a case in more than 30 years as a prosecutor, almost all of it spent fighting organized crime and gang violence in Connecticut. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — I surely won’t be the first to make this observation, but Durham’s experience in investigating the Mafia should serve him well when it comes to uncovering the workings of the Bush adminstration.