[Guest post by DRJ]
The LA Times reports Attorney General Eric Holder will open a criminal investigation into CIA treatment of detainees:
“A senior Justice Department official said that Holder envisioned an inquiry that would be narrow in scope, focusing on “whether people went beyond the techniques that were authorized” in Bush administration memos that liberally interpreted anti-torture laws.”
The article notes there may be serious proof problems, including difficulty locating witnesses, the absence of legally admissible documentation, and problems proving the requisite level of intent:
“The U.S. anti-torture statute requires proving that an interrogator “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering” — a daunting legal threshold.
Officials said it wasn’t clear that any CIA interrogators were ever informed of the limits laid out in the Justice Department memo.
“A number of people could say honestly, correctly, ‘I didn’t know what was in it,’ ” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official familiar with the inner workings of the interrogation program.”
There is also concern over the fallout from such an investigation:
“I don’t blame them for wanting to look into it,” said a former high-ranking Justice Department official familiar with the details of the program. “But if they appoint a special prosecutor, it would ultimately be unsuccessful, and it would go on forever and cause enormous collateral damage on the way to getting that unsuccessful result.”
Bracing for the worst, a small number of CIA officials have put off plans to retire or leave the agency so that they can maintain their access to classified files and be in a better position to defend against a Justice investigation.”
This sounds like an investigation that will target CIA field officers and supervisors. Apparently despite the “great challenges and disturbing disunity” of our times, there is something to be gained by “spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”