Nothing to see here: The Justice Department closed its investigation into the deaths of CIA detainees overseas and will not bring any charges, Attorney General Eric Holder announced today. According to The Associated Press' Pete Yost, today's decision surrounding the deaths of two suspected terrorists "marks the end of a wide-ranging criminal investigation by federal prosecutor John Durham into interrogation practices during the presidency of George W. Bush." According to Holder, his attorneys just weren't able to build a strong enough case against anybody. The department "declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” Holder said. Still, he was careful not to endorse any of the behavior the department uncovered in its investigation, saying the inquiry "was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct,” as Joe Palazzolo of The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog points out.
If you're a little fuzzy on what sparked the investigation here's a quick primer, courtesy of The AP:
Thursday's announcement not to prosecute came in the deaths of Gul Rahman and Manadel al-Jamadi.
Rahman died in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002, after being shackled to a cold concrete wall in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul, Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit. He was suspected of links to the terrorist group al-Qaida. Rahman is the only detainee known to have died in a CIA-run prison.
Al-Jamadi died in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A military autopsy declared al-Jamadi's death a homicide.
In sum: Not a great day for civil libertarians who wanted more vigilance on this issue out of Obama's Justice Department. Though, in reality, few expected any prosecutions at this point in time. So, who's happy? Out of the gates, it's former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who said he was "heartened that the investigation is complete, and I'm heartened by the results. I had great confidence in Mr. Durham. I just regret that many CIA officers had to go through yet another review of these activities."
You can read Holder's full statement here.
Update: The CIA sends along this statement from agency director David Petraeus to CIA employees:
Message from the Director: DoJ Investigations Closed
The Attorney General informed me today that, after exhaustive investigations into the treatment of two detainees in 2002-2003, the Justice Department will not bring criminal charges against any Agency personnel. These criminal investigations followed a Justice Department review that began in August 2009 and examined the treatment of approximately 100 detainees in the post-9/11 period. In June of last year, the Justice Department decided against any charges or further investigation in all but two of these cases. Today’s announcement brings the two remaining cases to a close.
I would like to thank everyone who played a role in supporting the Justice Department’s inquiries. As intelligence officers, our inclination, of course, is to look ahead to the challenges of the future rather than backwards at those of the past. Nonetheless, it was very important that we supported fully the Justice Department in its efforts. Now, as we move forward and strive to anticipate and counter overseas threats, I want to thank each and every one of you for your innumerable contributions to the defense of our nation, our fellow citizens, and our country’s interests around the globe. Our work has never been more vital to the strength of our republic, and it is a privilege to serve with you.
David H. Petraeus