The Washington Post has an interesting article on the Justice Department investigation of CIA interrogations, suggesting the inquiry may be narrower than some hoped or feared. It begins:
The Justice Department's review of detainee abuse by the CIA will focus on a very small number of cases, including at least one in which an Afghan prisoner died at a secret facility, according to two sources briefed on the matter.
On Friday, seven former CIA directors urged President Obama to end the inquiry, arguing that it would inhibit intelligence operations in the future and demoralize agency employees who believed they had been cleared by previous investigators.
"Attorney General [Eric] Holder's decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute," the directors, who served under Republican and Democratic presidents over the past 35 years, wrote in a letter.
Opposition to the probe has grown in the weeks since Holder ordered it, even as the outlines of the inquiry become more clear. Among the cases under review will be the death seven years ago of a young Afghan man, who was beaten and chained to a concrete floor without blankets, according to the sources. The man died in the cold night at a secret CIA facility north of Kabul, known as the Salt Pit.
It also contains this interesting bit:
Holder said last month that his decision to open the inquiry was in part because of a still-secret ethics report, which is examining the conduct of Justice Department lawyers who drafted memos blessing harsh interrogation tactics, including simulated drowning and sleep deprivation.
The ethics report, which is undergoing declassification review, does not point to problems with attorneys in the Eastern District of Virginia, two sources said, but it does explore differences of opinion within the working group that examined the detainee allegations over how to proceed on the few cases that were "close calls." In a small number of instances, career lawyers disagreed about whether the evidence was sufficient to seek indictment and ultimately win in court. Some of those issues were assessed -- as is normally the case -- by political appointees, including Paul J. McNulty, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia who was nominated to serve as deputy attorney general in October 2005. There are no allegations that cases were rejected for improper political reasons.
Before his decision to reopen the cases, Holder did not read detailed memos that prosecutors drafted and placed in files to explain their decision to decline prosecutions. That issue has rankled GOP lawmakers and some career lawyers in the Justice Department, who question whether Holder's order was made based on the facts or on his political instincts.
But a government source asserted that Holder was briefed on some of the details by advisers and that the attorney general was troubled by the material he read. Authorities have not pointed publicly to new evidence or witnesses that would strengthen the cases under review.