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Monday, August 24, 2009

CIA Director Panetta Melts Down

News it out that Attorney General Eric Holder will indeed appoint a special prosecutor to investigate torture, as his department has recommended.

Washington Post:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has decided to appoint a prosecutor to examine nearly a dozen cases in which CIA interrogators and contractors may have violated anti-torture laws and other statutes when they allegedly threatened terrorism suspects, according to two sources familiar with the move.

Holder is poised to name John Durham, a career Justice Department prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the inquiry, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not complete.

Durham's mandate, the sources added, will be relatively narrow: to look at whether there is enough evidence to launch a full-scale criminal investigation of current and former CIA personnel who may have broken the law in their dealings with detainees. Many of the harshest CIA interrogation techniques have not been employed against terrorism suspects for four years or more.

While that doesn't rule out investigating possible executive branch instigators, it doesn't explicitly call for it either. On that count, it seems we'll have to wait for Durham's recommendations.

Leon PanettaIt turns out that CIA Director Leon Panetta wasn't too happy about the idea of an investigation, getting into a "profanity-laced screaming match" with a "senior White House staff member," according to ABC News. In addition, Huffington Post reports that this just isn't Leon's day.

"Panetta was apparently also upset over the release, happening today, of an internal 2004 report on CIA torture," the website reports. "In a letter to agency employees Monday morning, Panetta preemptively defended CIA practices. 'The Agency sought and received multiple written assurances that its methods were lawful,' he wrote. (The message was also sent to reporters.) Panetta called the information contained in the inspector general's report 'old news.'"

I've got news for the director; old crimes are still crimes and the fact that everyone knows about them is a pretty lousy defense of them. Panetta seems to think this is a sort of territorial dispute, with one executive branch agency muscling in on the business of another, but the fact is that if crimes were committed, the Justice Department has jurisdiction. The CIA is not a government unto itself. Panetta's apparrent misunderstanding of that fact is disturbing.

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