U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. is poised to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate alleged CIA abuses committed during the interrogation of terrorism suspects, current and former U.S. government officials said.
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.
Remember all of the other special prosecutors? Yeah, the ones that went far afield from their original charge? Narrow in scope and special prosecutor do not go together. This is destined to go on until the final moments of the Obama administration.
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.
"Once you're out, it gets a lot harder," said a retired CIA official who said he had spoken recently with former colleagues. The inquiry would probably also target private contractors who worked for the CIA during the interrogations.
And who were these techniques used on?
One passage of the CIA report declassified this year said that the method had been used "at least 83 times during August 2002" on Abu Zubaydah, the first senior Al Qaeda figure captured by the agency. Waterboarding was then employed "183 times during March 2003" on Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The initial complaints were that the techniques were supposedly used on hundreds of people. That the CIA was just grabbing any Joe (or Muhammad) and torturing them for fun. Turns out the CIA used these techniques on just a couple of the worst - hundreds of times. Meh.
Not to make light of this, but this was one of those Jack Bauer situations with the clock ticking. It's easy now to look back say you did not like how we rolled up Al Qaeda. We had the masterminds and they had the intel to stop more attacks.
Politically, this will play out poorly for Obama. This plays into the anti-American theme he keeps stumbling into. From apology tours to glad-handing vehemently anti-US dictators, Obama seems to be mixing adulation overseas for success here at home. A mistake that leads to an early exit from the White House.