Holder closes investigation into alleged torture deaths of CIA detainees

US Attorney General Eric Holder announced Aug. 30 that the Department of Justice would close its investigation into the CIA’s alleged torture and abuse of detainees, with no criminal charges to be brought as a result of the three-year inquiry. In June 2011 Holder accepted the recommendation of Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) John Durham to open full criminal investigations into the deaths of two individuals while in US custody at overseas locations. The recommendation came during a criminal investigation by Durham that began in August 2009, under which he conducted an inquiry into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. The investigation centered primarily on whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators and whether such techniques could constitute statutory violations of torture.

As a result of the findings Holder determined that there were insufficient grounds to file criminal charges:

AUSA John Durham has now completed his investigations, and the Department has decided not to initiate criminal charges in these matters. In reaching this determination, Mr. Durham considered all potentially applicable substantive criminal statutes as well as the statutes of limitations and jurisdictional provisions that govern prosecutions under those statutes. Mr. Durham and his team reviewed a tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees. That review included both information and matters that were not examined during the Department’s prior reviews. Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decried the decision, accusing the Justice Department of “sweeping the crimes of the Bush administration under the rug” and demanding the senior government officials be held accountable for the alleged uses of torture and any deaths that resulted from such interrogation methods.

From Jurist, Aug. 31. Used with permission.

  1. Grisly details in CIA torture-killings
    Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian provides some ugly context that cuts through Holder’s dry legalese. We have noted before the brutal treatment of Manadel al-Jamadi at Abu Ghraib

    In August 2009, Holder announced a formal investigation to determine whether criminal charges should be brought in over 100 cases of severe detainee abuse involving “off-the-books methods” such as “mock execution and threatening a prisoner with a gun and a power drill”, as well as threats that “prisoners [would be] made to witness the sexual abuse of their relatives.” But less than two years later, on 30 June 2011, Holder announced that of the more than 100 cases the justice department had reviewed, there would be no charges brought in any of them – except two.

    The only exceptions were two particularly brutal cases, both of which resulted in the death of the detainee. One involved the 2002 abuse of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit”, after he was beaten, stripped, and then shackled to a cement wall in freezing temperatures.

    The other was the 2003 death of Manadel al-Jamadi at Abu Ghraib, who died in CIA custody after he was beaten, stripped, had cold water poured on him, and then shackled to the wall. It was al-Jamadi’s ice-packed body which was infamously photographed with a smiling US Army Sgt Charles Granier standing over it giving the thumbs-up sign.

    A US military autopsy declared al-Jamadi’s death a homicide due to “blunt force trauma to the torso complicated by compromised respiration”. Autopsy photos showed “lacerations and multiple bruises on Jamadi’s feet, thighs and arms”, though “his most significant injuries – five broken ribs – are not visible in the photos.” A physician told NPR back in 2005:

    “‘How Jamadi was shackled ‘makes it very difficult to breathe because you are suspended in a very awkward position. When you combine it with having the hood over your head and having broken ribs, it’s fairly clear that this death was caused by asphyxia because he couldn’t breathe properly.'”

    So, those are the two cases which the DOJ this week announced it was closing without any charges of any kind being brought. Because the Obama administration has systematically blocked all other cases besides these two from any possibility of criminal charges, yesterday’s decision means that nobody in the US government will pay any price for the systematic worldwide torture regime which that nation implemented and maintained for close to a decade.

    We’ve had our differences with Glenn Greenwald, but he says what needs to be said, and what few others are saying, on the US torture regime…