Report on CIA interrogations provokes strong response
In a cascading series of events, the Obama administration released a long-awaited but heavily redacted report by the CIA's inspector general documenting past interrogation abuses. Then, Attorney General Holder announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated during past CIA interrogations.
And, in a separate but related move, Holder announced the creation of a group to coordinate and conduct future interrogations.
Senate Intelligence ranking member Christopher (Kit) Bond of Missouri blasted the decision to investigate past interrogation practices.
"With a criminal investigation hanging over the agency's head, every CIA terror-fighter will be in [cover-your-ass] mode," Bond said. With things heating up in Afghanistan and Iraq, this looking back and unwarranted 'redo' of prior Justice Department decisions couldn't come at a worse time for the safety of our troops in harm's way and our nation."
Bond joined Senate Minority Whip Kyl, Senate Judiciary ranking member Jeff Sessions and six other Republican senators in sending Holder a letter criticizing the decision.
Bond also called the creation of the interrogation group "a bizarre vote of 'no confidence'" in CIA Director Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair.
He said the creation of the unit, which will be guided by the National Security Council, was "a troubling politicization of intelligence collection." He added: "Even the Democrats' favorite boogeyman [former Vice President Dick Cheney] did not take over terrorist interrogations."
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers of Michigan and Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said the Justice Department's investigation should include actions and decisions of former top officials of the George W. Bush administration, if warranted.
"The gruesome acts described in today's report did not happen in a vacuum," Conyers said. "It would not be fair or just for frontline personnel to be held accountable while the policymakers and lawyers escape scrutiny after creating and approving conditions where such abuses were all but inevitable to occur."
Conyers said he believes an independent and bipartisan commission should be created "to evaluate the broader issues raised by the Bush administration's brutal torture program."
Nadler added: "As I have said for many months, it is vital that this special counsel be given a broad mandate to investigate these abuses, to follow the evidence where it leads, and to prosecute where warranted."
The White House, for its part, tried to distance itself from Holder's decision to appoint a special prosecutor.
"The president has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back, and the president agrees with the attorney general that those who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance should not be prosecuted," the White House said in a statement. "Ultimately, determinations about whether someone broke the law are made independently by the attorney general."
House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes also issued a statement. He did not directly mention Holder's announcement of a preliminary review. But in referencing the CIA IG report, he said: "In nearly every case, the men and women at the CIA were following what they believed to be lawful guidance. Rather than point fingers and assign blame, we need to carefully examine the mechanisms that allowed this guidance to be developed and implemented and enact reforms that will guard against such institutional failures."