It's about time. The Obama administration could make a serious break with its thus far continuation of Bush administration excesses, abuses and outrages. As the article notes, the pursuit of justice in this area has been "politically awkward" for the Obama administration. (Well, boo-hoo).
By DAVID JOHNSTON August 24, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.
The recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, presented to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in recent weeks, comes as the Justice Department is about to disclose on Monday voluminous details on prisoner abuse that were gathered in 2004 by the C.I.A.’s inspector general but have never been released.
When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general’s findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder’s associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider.
With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A. It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.
The advice from the Office of Professional Responsibility strengthens Mr. Holder’s hand.
The recommendation to review the closed cases, in effect renewing the inquiries, centers mainly on allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Justice Department report is to be made public after classified information is deleted from it.
The cases represent about half of those that were initially investigated and referred to the Justice Department by the C.I.A.’s inspector general, but were later closed. It is not known which cases might be reopened.
Mr. Holder was said to have reacted with disgust earlier this year when he first read accounts of abusive treatment of detainees in a classified version of the inspector general’s report and other materials.
In examples that have just come to light, the C.I.A. report describes how C.I.A. officers carried out mock executions and threatened at least one prisoner with a gun and a power drill. It is a violation of the federal torture statute to threaten a prisoner with imminent death.
Mr. Holder, who questioned the thoroughness of previous inquiries by the Justice Department, is expected to announce within days his decision on whether to appoint a prosecutor to conduct a new investigation; in legal circles, it is believed to be highly likely that he will go forward with a fresh criminal inquiry....
...The Justice Department’s report, the most important since Mr. Holder took office, was submitted by Mary Patrice Brown, a veteran Washington federal prosecutor picked by Mr. Holder to lead the Office of Professional Responsibility earlier this year after its longtime chief, H. Marshall Jarrett, moved to another job in the Justice Department.
There has never been any public explanation of why the Justice Department decided not to bring charges in nearly two dozen abuse cases known to be referred to a team of federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., and in some instances not even the details of the cases have been made public.
Former government lawyers said that while some detainees died and others suffered serious abuses, prosecutors decided they would be unlikely to prevail because of problems with mishandled evidence and, in some cases, the inability to locate witnesses or even those said to be the victims.