President Obama wanted this to be a quiet news week. "I have specific instructions from the President for the press corps — he wants you to relax and have a good time," spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Sunday. "Nobody is looking to make any news," he added, referencing the slow vacation schedule at Martha’s Vineyard. Back in Washington, however, Attorney General Eric Holder was poised to appoint a prosecutor to investigate alleged torture during the Bush administration.
The Washington Post reports that Holder will appoint prosecutor John Durham to "examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws," a possibility that Newsweek first discussed in July. Accounts from both publications, however, predict a very narrow inquiry. The mandate, according to the new Post article, is only "to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees."
In his official statement, Holder said he felt compelled to respond to a newly completed, internal Justice Department report on "so-called enhanced interrogation techniques" by ordering the review:
I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. The Department regularly uses preliminary reviews to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter. I want to emphasize that neither the opening of a preliminary review nor, if evidence warrants it, the commencement of a full investigation, means that charges will necessarily follow.
Several human rights groups immediately said Holder’s approach falls fatally short, since it does not address the range of alleged counter-terror abuse and seems to foreclose accountability up the chain of command.
"An examination of a dozen cases will not bring the full scope of U.S. policies to light," said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project, in response to Monday’s news. "A bipartisan commission is still needed to provide a comprehensive understanding of past deviations from the rule of law."