WASHINGTON - US Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of terrorism suspects, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Citing current and former US government officials, the newspaper said Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be "narrow" in scope, focusing on "whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized" in memos issued by the administration of former president George W. Bush that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.
Current and former CIA and Justice Department officials who have firsthand knowledge of the interrogation files contend that criminal convictions will be difficult to obtain because the quality of evidence is poor and the legal underpinnings have never been tested, the paper said.
Some cases have not previously been disclosed, including an instance in which a Central Intelligence Agency operative brought a gun into the interrogation booth to force a detainee to talk, The Times said.
Other potentially criminal abuses have already come to light, including the waterboarding of prisoners in excess of Justice Department guidelines, and the deaths of detainees in CIA custody in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, according to the report.
Opening a criminal investigation is something Holder "has come reluctantly to consider," the paper quotes an unnamed Justice Department official as saying.
The official emphasized, however, that Holder had not reached a final decision but noting that "as attorney general, he has the obligation to follow the law."
Others familiar with Holder's thinking say that such an investigation seems all but certain, and that a prosecutor will probably be selected from a short list that Holder had asked subordinates to assemble, the report said.
Such a prosecutor would examine cases that are generally at least five years old, and probably some that were previously reviewed by career prosecutors who concluded that they could not be pursued, The Times said.