In April of 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder said that it “would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department.” Now, the tides have turned, and Attorney General Holder has announced that he has appointed a Special Prosecutor, John H. Durham, to reopen the cases of “CIA abuse.”
For months, President Barack Obama has consistently said he wants to look forward, not backward. He was more interested in creating a new culture, not in waging political prosecutions against public servants whose interrogations had already been vetted a few years ago- not by Bush appointees- but by civil service personnel working in the Justice Department. Holder’s explanation was that his review of CIA reports, now declassified, left him no choice. “Given all of the information currently available,” Holder said, “it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.”
The 2004 report lists these abuses. They include the threatening of detainees that members of their family would be raped, mock executions, and intimidating tactics such as displaying a power drill and a gun near a subject soon to be interrogated, blowing smoke in their faces, and depriving them of sleep.
Most important, as Vice-President Dick Cheney told the American Enterprise Institute, the details learned from interrogations that included some of these measures, including waterboarding, revealed that they succeeded in uncovering planned attacks on the United States. The report, as even The New York Times story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane emphasized, “found that the interrogations obtained critical information to identify terrorists and stop potential plots and said some imprisoned terrorists provided more information after being exposed to brutal treatment.”
Contrary to earlier stories, in other words, major information was gained only after these harsh interrogation techniques- torture if you will- were used. For example, one report revealed that information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, “dramatically expanded our universe of knowledge on Al Qaeda’s plots.” Mohammed was told that if another attack on the U.S. took place, the CIA would “kill your children.” Evidently, while Mr. Mohammed could not care if he killed over 3000 innocent Americans, that threat was enough for him to spill the beans.
We know that the CIA had commissioned a review of their methods during the Bush administration’s first term, had sent an unredacted copy of their report to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees in 2004, and to the Department of Justice as well, so that allegations of abuse could be investigated. Career prosecutors—again not Bush appointees-evaluated these claims to decide if any prosecution was warranted. As a result one CIA contractor who beat a detainee to death was convicted.