The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into the deaths of two CIA detainees during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in an emailed statement Thursday.
John Durham, a longtime federal prosecutor from Connecticut who is leading the inquiry, has poured over a “tremendous volume of information pertaining to the detainees” which has “included both information and matters that had never previously been examined by the Department,” Holder said.
“Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals. Those investigations are ongoing. The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted.”
The first case involves the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, a notorious prisoner known as “the Iceman” who died at Abu Ghraib in 2003 of asphyxiation and “blunt force injuries.” Officials at the CIA reportedly identified him as a high-value target, because he allegedly was a supplier of explosives used in several attacks by insurgents, including the bombing of the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Baghdad headquarters in October, 2003.
The second case involves the death of terror suspect Gul Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and taken to a secret prison in Afghanistan by forces in November of 2002. Rahman was violently uncooperative in custody and threatened to kill his guards, officials told the AP.
Durham’s team is looking into charges against a CIA employee who may have made false statements about the destruction of interrogation tapes.
Leon Panetta, the CIA director, welcomed news that the broader investigation is over.
“We are now finally about to close this chapter of our Agency's history, Panetta said in a statement. As Director, I have always believed that our primary responsibility is not to the past, but to the present and future threats to the nation.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union said the investigation ought to be broader.
“While we welcome the announcement that the Justice Department will conduct a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody, it is difficult to understand the prosecutor's conclusion that only those two deaths warrant further investigation,” Jaffer said.