For Immediate Release: January 2, 2008
New York – “We welcome the decision to launch a criminal investigation into the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes,” said Elisa Massimino, Washington Director of Human Rights First. “In appointing Mr. Durham, Attorney General Mukasey said he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, a real concern given how deeply involved the Justice Department has been in authorizing the CIA’s interrogation methods,” Massimino said. “But if the Attorney General were really interested in avoiding a conflict of interest, he would make Mr. Durham a Special Counsel and ensure his independence from an internal reporting chain that is infected by multiple conflicts of interest,” said Massimino.
John Durham has not been appointed as a Special Counsel and will continue reporting to the Deputy Attorney General. “In light of the role the Justice Department has played on these issues, only an independent Special Counsel can transparently and reliably investigate this important matter.”
*The Office of Legal Counsel of the DOJ wrote several legal opinions, which the CIA relied on in conducting harsh interrogation of terror suspects. The Justice Department cannot credibly investigate and prosecute any acts authorized in OLC opinions.
* The current head of the Department of Justice Criminal Division participated in meetings on detainee interrogations. Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, while serving as deputy in the criminal division from 2001 to 2005 participated in meetings in which the FBI expressed its disagreement with harsh interrogation methods practiced by the military toward detainees held at Guantanamo.
*The past head of the Criminal Division, Michael Chertoff, counseled intelligence officials on applying the Anti-Torture Act and OLC opinions on torture. The New York Times reported that Chertoff was “directly involved in these discussions” as the CIA sought guidance on “whether its officers risked prosecution by using particular techniques” on “Abu Zubaydah and other important detainees.”
*The tapes were destroyed at the same time the Justice Department was actively reviewing twenty cases referred by the DOD and the CIA inspector general, detailing possible misconduct by soldiers and CIA employees implicated in abuses including the deaths of detainees in U.S. custody.