Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Torture-Tapes Story Isn't Fading Away

It isn't like the Bush administration needed yet another criminal investigation, but that's what they got earlier today when Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed an outside prosecutor to head up a criminal investigation into the destruction of the tapes.

Last month, the CIA admitted that tapes of operatives using "harsh interrogation techniques" against torturing two terrorism suspects had been destroyed. The admission of the destroyed video evidence sparked a congressional inquiry and a preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice.

''The Department's National Security Division has recommended, and I have concluded, that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter, and I have taken steps to begin that investigation,'' Mukasey said in a statement released Wednesday.

The A.G. has tapped John Durham, an AUSA from Connecticut who has a reputation as a tough, no-nonsense, publicity-averse career prosecutor to oversee the case. He is best known for his role in sending several corrupt public officials to prison, including former Republican Governor Jim Rowland in 2005.

John L. Helgerson, Inspector General for the CIA, who worked with the DoJ on the preliminary investigation has recused himself from the criminal investigation. Additionally, the US Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia (where Langley is physically located) has also been recused.

Mukasey did not take the additional step of naming Durham a Special Prosecutor, but instead designated him the "acting U.S. Attorney" in the case. Durham will not have the same level of autonomy in conducting his investigation that Patrick Fitzgerald had in the Plame outing and treason trial of "Scooter" Libby.

The CIA has already acquiesced to congressional investigators, who have begun reviewing documents and files, and the former head of the Clandestine Services, Jose Rodriguez, has been summoned to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on January 16. Rodriguez was the official who ultimately gave the "destroy" order, after much internal wrangling by administration lawyers.

''The CIA will of course cooperate fully with this investigation as it has with the others into this matter,'' agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

Here is hoping that this investigation goes right to the door of the "fourth branch"...

Cheney in an orange jumpsuit would be a sight to behold - one that might make me pass out from a schaddenfreude overdose!

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