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Context of '(August 2004): CIA Refers Detainee Death to Justice Department for Examination; Department Decides Not to Prosecute'

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Shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan (see October 19, 2001), the CIA takes control of an abandoned brick factory, and turns it into a training facility and secret prison. The facility, code-named the “Salt Pit,” is a 10-acre facility just north of Kabul. It is used to train Afghan counterterrorism forces and to house prisoners. The agency intends the Salt Pit to be a “host-nation facility,” manned and operated entirely by Afghans, in part so that CIA officials cannot be held accountable for the actions taken by the Afghan guards and interrogators. Similar methodologies are used in secret CIA prisons in other countries. However, the CIA pays the entire cost of maintaining the facility. It vets the guards who work there, and decides which prisoners will be kept in the facility, including some senior al-Qaeda operatives who will eventually be transferred to other facilities such as Guantanamo. Sometime before March 2005, the CIA will transfer its operations to another facility, and the Salt Pit will be demolished. [ABC News, 11/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A group of militants thought to be linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami organisation are captured in Pakistan. One man arrested is Gul Rahman, who will later freeze to death at a CIA-controlled prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). Another is Ghairat Baheer, a doctor and Hekmatyar’s son-in-law. Hekmatyar was a CIA ally during the Soviet-Afghan war (see (1986)), but is now linked to al-Qaeda. According to Baheer, Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He is staying with Baheer, an old friend, when US agents and Pakistani security forces storm the house and take both men, two guards, and a cook into custody. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Gul Rahman, Ghairat Baheer

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Two detainees, Gul Rahman and Ghairat Baheer, are transferred from Pakistan to the CIA-controlled Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan. Baheer will say that he was separated from Rahman about a week after they were captured (see October 29, 2002) and they were both moved to the prison, so presumably they are transferred there together. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] Rahman will later die at the prison (see November 20, 2002).

Entity Tags: Gul Rahman, Ghairat Baheer, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Gul Rahman.Gul Rahman. [Source: From Family via CBS News]Gul Rahman, an Afghani recently detained in Pakistan (see October 29, 2002) and now held at the CIA-controlled Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan (see Shortly After October 29, 2002), is uncooperative with his captors. At one point he throws a latrine bucket at his guards, and he also threatens to kill them. These actions provoke harsher treatment. His hands are shackled over his head, he is roughed up, and will be doused with water, leading to his death (see November 20, 2002). [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Gul Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

An Afghan detainee dies of hypothermia while being brutalized by CIA interrogators at a secret prison north of Kabul code-named the “Salt Pit” (see After October 2001). The detainee, whose name is Gul Rahman, is considered uncooperative (see November 2002). [Washington Post, 3/3/2005; ABC News, 11/18/2005; Associated Press, 3/28/2010] He had originally been arrested in Pakistan, and then brought to Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] An inexperienced junior CIA case officer named Matthew Zirbel, who is in charge of the Salt Pit, orders Rahman to be stripped semi-naked, chained to the concrete floor, and left overnight without blankets. [Washington Post, 3/3/2005; ABC News, 11/18/2005; Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The incident will later be confirmed by four government officials. Afghan guards paid by the CIA and working under agency supervision take Rahman to an abandoned warehouse, drag him around on the concrete floor, causing bruising and lacerations, before chaining him in his cell. When night falls, the temperature plummets. Rahman is found in the morning, frozen to death. A CIA medic quickly autopsies him and states that “hypothermia” is the cause of death, and guards bury the body in an unmarked, unacknowledged cemetery used by Afghan forces. The man’s family is not notified, and his remains are never returned for a proper burial. The man is not listed on any registry of captives, not even as a so-called “ghost detainee.” One government official says simply, “He just disappeared from the face of the earth.” Zirbel will later be promoted. [Washington Post, 3/3/2005; ABC News, 11/18/2005] Zirbel’s supervisor, the CIA chief of station in Afghanistan known only as Paul P., will go on to play a role in incidents of detainee abuse in Iraq, although details about this are unknown. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009; Harper's, 3/28/2010] Colleagues later describe Zirbel as “bright… eager, [and] full of energy,” and say that he was placed in charge of the facility because “there were not enough senior-level volunteers,” according to one senior intelligence officer. “It’s not a job just anyone would want. More senior people said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ There was a real notable absence of high-ranking people” in Afghanistan. Moreover, the officer will add: “[T]he CIA did not have a deep cadre of people who knew how to run prisons. It was a new discipline. There’s a lot of room to get in trouble.” The CIA will brief the chairmen and vice chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the death, but at least one official will say the briefing is incomplete. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will ask the committee chairman, Pat Roberts (R-KS), to investigate Rahman’s death, but Roberts will refuse. No one is sure if Rahman had any real connection to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. “He was probably associated with people who were associated with al-Qaeda,” one US government official will say. [Washington Post, 3/3/2005; ABC News, 11/18/2005]

Entity Tags: House Intelligence Committee, Matthew Zirbel, “Paul P.”, Pat Roberts, Central Intelligence Agency, John D. Rockefeller, Gul Rahman, Senate Intelligence Committee

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The CIA’s Deputy Director for Operations, James Pavitt, informs the agency’s inspector general, John Helgerson, that the CIA Counterterrorist Center has established a program to detain and interrogate terrorists at foreign sites. At the same time, Pavitt also informs Helgerson that he has just learned of an apparently controversial incident and sent a team to investigate it. It appears that the incident triggered the notification to the inspector general about the program. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 1 pdf file] The incident is the killing of detainee Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see After October 2001 and November 20, 2002). [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] The detention and interrogation program has been in operation since March at the latest, as high-value detainee Abu Zubaida was arrested and then taken to a CIA black site at that time (see March 28, 2002 and April - June 2002). However, it is unclear whether Helgerson was aware of the program prior to being informed by Pavitt.

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (CIA), James Pavitt, Central Intelligence Agency, Directorate of Operations, John Helgerson

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The CIA’s office of the inspector general begins an investigation of the killing of detainee Gul Rahman at the agency’s Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). The investigation begins after the agency’s inspector general, John Helgerson, is notified of the incident by management (see Shortly After November 20, 2002). It is unclear whether the inspector general issues a separate report on this incident or whether his office’s conclusions about it are contained in a general report on the effectiveness of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program (see May 7, 2004). Whatever the case, the inspector general’s conclusions focus on two agency officials, an officer named Matthew Zirbel, who caused Rahman’s death, and his boss, the CIA’s station chief in Afghanistan, known only as Paul P. The investigation finds that Zirbel displayed poor judgement in leaving Rahman to die, but that he made repeated requests for guidance that were largely ignored. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (CIA), “Paul P.”, Central Intelligence Agency, Matthew Zirbel

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A CIA official known as a “debriefer” attempts to intimidate al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a handgun and a power drill. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file] The official, who will later become known as “Albert,” had come to interrogate al-Nashiri at an agency black site in Poland after al-Nashiri had been tortured (see (November 2002)), but recently decided that al-Nashiri was still withholding information (see Mid-December 2002). [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Mayer, 2008, pp. 225; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert gets approval for the plan to use the gun from his supervisor, known only as “Mike,” although Mike does not clear the plan with CIA headquarters. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert takes an unloaded semi-automatic handgun into al-Nashiri’s cell. He racks it once or twice, simulating the loading of a bullet into the chamber, close to al-Nashiri’s ear. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file] After again receiving consent from Mike, around the same day Albert takes a power drill into the cell. While al-Nashiri is naked and hooded, he revs the drill to frighten al-Nashiri, but does not touch him with it. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] This abuse will be reported to CIA headquarters (see January 2003), but the Justice Department will decline to prosecute Albert (see September 11, 2003), and the result of the CIA inspector general’s investigation of the matter is unknown (see October 29, 2003).

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Central Intelligence Agency, “Mike”, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Abdul Wali turns himself in to a US base in Asadabad, Afghanistan [CBS News, 6/18/2004] at the request of the Afghan governor of Kunar province. Wali allegedly participated in rocket attacks against the base, which is located in northeast Afghanistan close to the border with Pakistan. During the next two days, according to an indictment, he is “brutally assault[ed]” by David A. Passaro, a private contractor, employed by the CIA, [Guardian, 6/23/2004] who uses “his hands and feet and a large flashlight.” On June 21, Wali dies in detention. The CIA refers the case to the Justice Department in November 2003. Passaro will be indicted with charges of assault in June 2004. [CBS News, 6/18/2004]

Entity Tags: David A. Passaro, Abdul Wali

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

The Justice Department’s criminal division decides not to prosecute a CIA officer, known only as “Albert,” who intimidated al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a handgun and power drill during interrogations. The use of the gun and drill took place around late 2002 (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003), but was not authorised by CIA headquarters. As there will be no prosecution, the department returns the matter to the CIA. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] The CIA’s inspector general will issue a report on the incidents the next month, but its conclusion is unknown (see October 29, 2003).

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Criminal Division (DoJ), “Albert”

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Sabrina Harman giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body.Sabrina Harman giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body. [Source: Public domain]Detainee Manadel al-Jamadi, is brought to Abu Ghraib prison by US Navy SEAL Team 7. The Iraqi, captured during a joint Task Force 121/CIA mission, is suspected of having been involved in an attack against the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Members of the Navy SEAL team punch and choke Al-Jamadi and stick their fingers in his eyes. A SEAL lieutenant is involved in the abuse. [Associated Press, 1/11/2005] Al-Jamadi resists his arrest, and one SEAL Team member hits him on the head with the butt of a rifle. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] MP Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus is on duty when two CIA representatives bring the man to the Hard Site. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Spc. Jason A. Kenner, an MP at Abu Ghraib, will later say the detainee was “in good health” when he was brought in. [Guardian, 5/20/2004] According to Kenner’s later account, the detainee’s head is covered with an empty sandbag. MPs are then ordered to take him to a shower room, and told not to remove the hood, according to Kenner. [Guardian, 5/20/2004] The detainee is then interrogated by CIA and military intelligence personnel. Less than an hour later, the detainee will be found dead (see (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003). [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Dennis E. Stevanus, Jason A. Kenner, Manadel al-Jamadi, International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Charles Graner giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body on November 4, 2003.Charles Graner giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body on November 4, 2003. [Source: Public domain]Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus is summoned to the shower stall of the Hard Site in Abu Ghraib. When he arrives he discovers that detainee Manadel al-Jamadi, interrogated by the CIA less than an hour before (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003), is dead. Jamadi’s body is still shackled to the stall. When the hood is removed, he is found to have severe head wounds. (It is unclear whether these wounds were present when the prisoner was taken in, or whether they were inflicted during the interrogation.) [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Stevanus calls a medic and notifies his superiors. Lt. Col. Steven Jordan arrives at the site at around 7:15 a.m. He finds several MPs and medics in the shower stall. The deceased prisoner is still handcuffed with his hands behind his back, lying on the floor face down. When the body is uncuffed and turned over, Jordan notices a small spot of blood on the floor where his head has lain. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file Sources: Jason A. Kenner] There is also extensive bruising on the body. [Guardian, 5/20/2004 Sources: Jason A. Kenner] Jordan alerts Col. Thomas M. Pappas. A CIA supervisor is also notified. He arrives and requests that the Hard Site hold the body until the next day. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] According to ABC News, Spc. Jason A. Kenner sees the body packed in ice while a “battle” rages between CIA and military intelligence interrogators over who should dispose of the corpse. [Guardian, 5/20/2004] The body is then put in a body bag, packed in ice, and stored in the shower area. [New Yorker, 5/10/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file Sources: Ivan L. Frederick II] Photographs are later released of MP Spcs. Charles Graner and Sabrina Harman posing next to the dead body wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice, giving a “thumbs up.” [New Yorker, 5/10/2004] According to MP Spc. Bruce Brown, an MP with the 372nd, they spray “air freshener to cover the scent.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2004] The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is also alerted. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas M. Pappas, Sabrina Harman, Manadel al-Jamadi, Steven L. Jordan, Dennis E. Stevanus, Bruce Brown, Charles Graner, Criminal Investigation Division, Jason A. Kenner

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is questioned by “other governmental agency officials” (In military parlance, this means the CIA) and possibly beaten. [Human Rights Watch, 6/2004]

Entity Tags: Abed Hamed Mowhoush

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Abed Hamed Mowhoush.Abed Hamed Mowhoush. [Source: New York Times]At the Al Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is interrogated by two officers of the 66th Military Intelligence Company. They force him head-first into a sleeping bag and question him as they roll him back and forth. One of the soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, sits on the Iraqi general’s chest and covers his mouth. [Human Rights Watch, 6/2004] The prisoner dies of asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression. [Denver Post, 5/18/2004] Later in the day, US military officials issue a statement saying that a prisoner has died of natural causes during questioning. “Mowhoush said he didn’t feel well and subsequently lost consciousness,” the statement reads. “The soldier questioning him found no pulse, then conducted CPR and called for medical authorities. According to the on-site surgeon, it appeared Mowhouse died of natural causes.” [Denver Post, 5/18/2004; New York Times, 5/22/2004] But the autopsy report will say there is “evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs.” [Human Rights Watch, 6/2004] The incident is investigated and a report is issued in early 2004 (see Late January 2004).

Entity Tags: Lewis Welshofer, Abed Hamed Mowhoush

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Officials at the CIA refer a case in which a detainee named Gul Rahman apparently froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002) to the Justice Department for examination. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] The full name of the CIA officer who caused the detainee to die is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The case is reviewed with an eye to prosecution by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where one of the office’s top prosecutors works on it. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] This is apparently one of eight such referrals around this time. [New York Times, 10/23/2005] According to the New York Times, the Justice Department will be “reviewing its jurisdiction” in the case in May 2005. [New York Times, 5/22/2004] The department will decide not to prosecute in October 2005 (see Mid-October 2005), but will re-examine the case in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).

Entity Tags: Gul Rahman, Matthew Zirbel, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The CIA’s Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo reviews the case of the killing of Afghan detainee Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit black site in 2002 (see November 20, 2002). However, he takes no action against the two officers involved in the death, one named Matthew Zirbel, who had Rahman doused with water and left with little clothing in the cold, and one known as Paul P., Zirbel’s boss who failed to provide him with the proper guidance. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] The timing of the review is unknown, but it must occur after Foggo becomes executive director in November 2004. [New York Times, 8/12/2009; Associated Press, 3/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Matthew Zirbel, Gul Rahman, “Paul P.”, Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The Justice Department decides not to prosecute in most cases where detainees were abused and killed by the CIA. The cases, of which there are apparently eight, had been referred to the department by the CIA’s inspector general (see (August 2004)) and were investigated primarily by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, although officials at department headquarters in Washington are also involved in the decision not to prosecute. Although some of the cases are still technically under review at this time, the department indicates it does not intend to bring charges. [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The cases include:
bullet The death of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi in CIA custody in November 2003 (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003 and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003);
bullet The asphyxiation of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush in Iraq, also in November 2003 (see November 24 or 25, 2003 and November 26, 2003). This incident involved the military, as well as at least one CIA contractor; [New York Times, 10/23/2005]
bullet The intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a gun and drill (see September 11, 2003).
bullet The death of detainee Gul Rahman, who froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). The case was examined by prosecutors, but, in the end, a recommendation not to prosecute the officer who caused the detainee to die is made. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] The officer’s first name is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The decision is made because prosecutors conclude that the prison was outside the reach of US law; although the CIA funded it and vetted its Afghan guards, it was technically an Afghan prison. In addition, it is unclear whether Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and then taken to Afghanistan, would have died from injuries sustained during his capture, rather than by freezing. Although hypothermia was listed as the cause of death in the autopsy, the body was not available to investigators. According to the Washington Post, “questions remain whether hypothermia was used as a cover story in part to protect people who had beaten the captive.” However, according to a “senior official who took part in the review,” the decision not to prosecute in this case is not initially that clear, and an indictment is considered. However, the prosecutors decide not to press charges against Zirbel and a memo explaining this decision is drafted. An official involved in the review will later say there is “absolutely no pressure” from the Justice Department’s management to decide not to prosecute. However, a later report by the Post will indicate there may be a split among prosecutors over the decision, and that a political appointee, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, assesses the case. McNulty will be nominated for the position of deputy attorney general around this time (see October 21, 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009]
However, one CIA employee, a contractor named David Passaro, has been charged with detainee abuse (see June 18-21, 2003). [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The department will begin a second review of some or all of these cases in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).

Entity Tags: Matthew Zirbel, Paul J. McNulty, Gul Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, Manadel al-Jamadi, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The White House announces that President Bush will nominate Paul McNulty to be the next deputy attorney general. McNulty is currently the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, which the Washington Post will describe as the “central legal front in the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism strategy.” He was involved in the prosecutions of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh and Zacarias Moussaoui, sometimes referred to as a candidate for the “20th hijacker” on 9/11. McNulty’s nomination comes after the previous nominee, Timothy E. Flanigan, withdrew his name from consideration at the start of the month due to opposition in the Senate. McNulty will keep his current job and serve as acting deputy attorney general until confirmed by the Senate. [Washington Post, 10/22/2005] McNulty recently took a decision not to prosecute CIA officers who abused and killed detainees in some cases referred to his office by the agency’s inspector general (see (August 2004) and Mid-October 2005).

Entity Tags: Paul J. McNulty, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

John Durham.John Durham. [Source: Bob Child / Associated Press]After the Justice Department and CIA Inspector General conclude there should be a criminal probe into the destruction of videotapes showing interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see January 2, 2008), Attorney General Michael Mukasey appoints John Durham, a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, to oversee the case. The investigation would usually be handled by the prosecutor’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, but that office is recused to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interests. Durham will not act as an independent special prosecutor like Patrick Fitzgerald in the Valerie Plame Wilson case, but will report to the Deputy Attorney General. [Salon, 1/2/2008] Durham made his name as a prosecutor in a difficult organized crime case in Boston. [New York Times, 1/13/2008] House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) criticizes the appointment, saying, “it is disappointing that the Attorney General has stepped outside the Justice Department’s own regulations and declined to appoint a more independent special counsel in this matter… The Justice Department’s record over the past seven years of sweeping the administration’s misconduct under the rug has left the American public with little confidence in the administration’s ability to investigate itself. Nothing less than a special counsel with a full investigative mandate will meet the tests of independence, transparency and completeness.” [Salon, 1/2/2008]

Entity Tags: Michael Mukasey, US Department of Justice, John Conyers, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaida, John Durham

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Mary Patrice Brown.Mary Patrice Brown. [Source: Allgov (.com)]The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) recommends reversing a Bush-era policy and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner abuse investigations, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision could potentially expose CIA employees and contractors to prosecution for crimes involving brutalizing and torturing prisoners in US custody, particularly as some detainees died in custody and others were physically and mentally abused. The OPR makes the recommendation in early August, but the information is not reported in the media until later in the month. The decision comes as the Justice Department is ready to disclose new information on prisoner abuse from a 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general that has never before been released (see May 7, 2004). The Bush-era Justice Department chose not to pursue investigations into any of the allegations, deciding that none of them warranted further inquiry. However, Attorney General Eric Holder reconsidered that decision after he saw the allegations and the accompanying evidence, much of which is contained in the 2004 CIA report. The OPR gives Holder additional leverage to reopen the investigations. The OPR report is primarily authored by the office’s new chief, Mary Patrice Brown, a federal prosecutor picked to replace the office’s former head, H. Marshall Jarrett, who is working elsewhere in the Justice Department. One case under review is that of Iraqi citizen Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003) after being captured by a team of Navy SEALs. Prosecutors believe he received his fatal injuries from his captors, but lawyers for the SEALs deny the charge. During President Bush’s tenure, the Justice Department responded to inquiries about the incidents from Democratic lawmakers with little more than summaries of the numbers of cases under scrutiny, and provided virtually no details about individual cases or explanations as to why the department chose not to prosecute. [New York Times, 8/24/2009]

Entity Tags: H. Marshall Jarrett, Central Intelligence Agency, Eric Holder, US Department of Justice, Manadel al-Jamadi, Mary Patrice Brown, Office of Professional Responsibility

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Attorney General Eric Holder announces he has appointed a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, John Durham, as a special prosecutor to investigate whether CIA interrogators broke any federal laws. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009]
Decision Stems from CIA IG Report - The investigation is preliminary in nature, and will decide whether a full investigation is warranted. Holder bases his decision in part on a just-released 2004 report on torture by the CIA’s inspector general (see August 24, 2009) and a Justice Department recommendation that there should be an investigation of about a dozen cases of possible abuse and torture from Iraq and Afghanistan (see First Half of August 2009). According to the conclusion of the CIA report: “The enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency under the CTC [Counterterrorist Center] program are inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights. Unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques were used.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] The review is also prompted by a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into memoranda drafted by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel related to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The OPR report recommends the department re-examine previous decisions not to prosecute in some cases related to the interrogation of certain detainees. The aim of the preliminary review is to find whether federal offenses were committed in some detainee interrogations. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009] According to the Washington Post, the review will focus on “a very small number of cases,” including one in which a CIA officer named Zirbel caused Afghan prisoner Gul Rahman to freeze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002) and the intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a handgun and drill (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). These cases and the others were previously referred by the CIA inspector general to the Justice Department for examination, but the department decided not to prosecute (see (August 2004) and Mid-October 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009; Associated Press, 9/7/2010]
Durham a Veteran Prosecutor - Durham has been investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations that may have documented instances of torture (see January 2, 2008). Although Durham has a low public profile, he is a veteran of numerous high-level prosecutions, including cases against Boston-area organized crime figures, corrupt FBI agents, and former Governor John Rowland (R-CT). Durham is considered apolitical, and has worked closely with the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Connecticut defense lawyer Hugh Keefe calls him “the go-to guy for Justice whenever they get a hot case.” Former Connecticut prosecutor Mark Califano calls Durham’s approach to investigations “clinical,” and says he has “very rarely” concluded a case without bringing criminal charges. “He likes to make cases when there is evidence there,” Califano says. “You’ve got to balance whether that kind of information exists.… You can’t move forward if you don’t have the evidence.” [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009] Boston prosecutors and defense attorneys have characterized Durham as “honest” and “tenacious.” Warren Bamford, who heads Boston’s FBI office, said Durham “kind of has blinders on in the sense that he doesn’t worry about the politics and all the other stuff that might be swirling around, and I think that’s really what makes him so successful.” [Boston Globe, 1/7/2008] In a statement, Holder says, “Mr. Durham, who is a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice and who has assembled a strong investigative team of experienced professionals, will recommend to me whether there is sufficient predication for a full investigation into whether the law was violated in connection with the interrogation of certain detainees.” [Think Progress, 8/24/2009]
Senator: Durham a 'First-Rate' Choice - Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is enthusiastic about the choice of Durham. He says he has worked with Durham before, while Whitehouse was US Attorney for Rhode Island, and calls the prosecutor “very professional” and “a first-rate choice,” adding that Durham has “a very good grounding in this because he has been doing the investigation into the destruction of the torture tapes.” [MSNBC, 8/25/2009]
No Acknowledged 'Break' with White House - Holder notes that he will be criticized for undermining the CIA, and may be going against abjurations by President Obama to “move forward” instead of focusing on past transgressions, but says the facts left him little choice. “As attorney general, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law,” he says in a statement. “Given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.… I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.” White House officials say Holder’s decision does not mark a break between the White House and the Justice Department on their policies toward interrogations. Deputy press secretary Bill Burton tells reporters that “ultimately, the decisions on who is investigated and who is prosecuted are up to the attorney general.… The president thinks that Eric Holder, who he appointed as a very independent attorney general, should make those decisions.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] Justice Department spokespersons refuse to say who will, and who will not, be investigated. [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Mark Califano, John Durham, Warren Bamford, Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Hugh Keefe, Obama administration, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Matthew Zirbel, Central Intelligence Agency, “Albert”, Bill Burton, US Department of Justice, Sheldon Whitehouse

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The response by media and public officials to the announcement of a preliminary investigation by the Justice Department into whether crimes were committed in the course of a small number of detention and interrogation cases by the CIA (see August 24, 2009) is mixed. The investigation is headed by special prosecutor John Durham. Reporter Michael Isikoff says that it will be “difficult to bring cases against agency operatives when you have the [former] attorney general of the United States [John Ashcroft] saying repetitive use of waterboarding is okay with him. He has no problem with it. The Justice Department has no problem with it—which is why some people say if we’re not going to have criminal investigations at the very top, the leadership that authorized these programs, at least have full disclosure so the American public can know the full story of what happened.” Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) criticizes the potential focus on interrogators and says the inquiry should focus on former Bush administration officials and Justice Department lawyers; he says the investigation could echo the Abu Ghraib investigation, where “lower ranking troops who committed abuses were hung out to dry.” Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, says the Justice Department inquiry risks disrupting current counterterrorism operations, and claims that abuse charges have already been “exhaustively reviewed.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009]
Lack of Accountability? - Joanne Mariner, the terrorism and counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch, says: “It’s heartening that the attorney general has opened a preliminary investigation of these crimes, but it’s crucial that its scope include senior officials who authorized torture. Lower-level CIA operatives—even if using so-called ‘unauthorized’ techniques—may still have relied on the letter or the spirit of high-level authorizations.” Human Rights Watch warns that if the investigation focuses solely on so-called “rogue” interrogators who acted without official authorization, but fails to investigate senior officials with responsibility for the interrogation program, it will lack credibility. The organization writes, “Such an approach would validate the Bush-era Justice Department memoranda that authorized torture.” It calls the US’s record on accountability for detainee abuse “abysmal.” [Human Rights Watch, 8/24/2009]
Focusing on 'Low-Level Operatives'? - The American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer later says that Durham’s investigation seems to be far too narrow in scope, focusing solely on CIA interrogators and ignoring Bush administration officials who authorized torture and other abusive actions. [TPM Muckraker, 8/31/2009] This position is echoed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which states: “Responsibility for the torture program cannot be laid at the feet of a few low-level operatives. Some agents in the field may have gone further than the limits so ghoulishly laid out by the lawyers who twisted the law to create legal cover for the program, but it is the lawyers and the officials who oversaw and approved the program who must be investigated.” The center demands the appointment of “an independent special prosecutor with a full mandate to investigate those responsible for torture and war crimes, especially the high ranking officials who designed, justified, and orchestrated the torture program.” Another organization, Physicians for Human Rights, says that it “urges the administration to pursue any investigation up the chain of command to those officials who authorized and supervised the use of illegal techniques.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/24/2009] Several Democrats, including Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and two members of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI), issue statements urging the investigation to go beyond looking into the actions of CIA interrogators, and investigate the officials who authorized those actions. [TPM Muckraker, 8/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Eric Holder, Ron Wyden, Russell D. Feingold, US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Peter Hoekstra, Center for Constitutional Rights, Patrick J. Leahy, Michael Isikoff, Jameel Jaffer, Jerrold Nadler, Joanne Mariner, John Conyers, John Ashcroft, Obama administration, John Durham

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defends Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to investigate allegations of prisoner abuse by the CIA (see August 24, 2009). Referring to Holder’s decision going against the apparent wishes of President Obama, Gonzales says, “As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House.” The attorney general has a “great deal of discretion” in such matters, he says. Gonzales also says that since Bush administration lawyers clearly defined what interrogation techniques were legal, the interrogators who went beyond those defined boundaries should be investigated. “We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists,” he says. “And if people go beyond that, I think it is legitimate to question and examine that conduct to ensure people are held accountable for their actions, even if it’s action in prosecuting the war on terror.” Holder, Gonzales says, is only concerned about the “one percent of actors” who went beyond the guidelines of Justice Department lawyers, and is not conducting a witch hunt. The other 99 percent “are heroes and and should be treated like heroes for the most part, not criminals,” he says. [Washington Times, 9/1/2009] Two days later, Gonzales backs down from his position. He tells a Washington Times reporter, “Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that’s available to me, I don’t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence gathering capabilities, and that’s a concern that’s shared by career intelligence officials, and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision.” [Washington Times, 9/3/2009]

Entity Tags: Alberto R. Gonzales, Eric Holder, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Law professor Benjamin Davis calls on former Bush administration officials to step forward and cooperate with the Justice Department investigation into torture, being led by prosecutor John Durham (see August 24, 2009). Davis makes his call after attending a debate called “After Guantanamo” at Case Western Reserve Law School. During that debate, he writes, “members of the former administration regaled the audience with stories about the mistakes made and the arrogance demonstrated by persons with whom they had worked on the issues of detention, interrogation, and military commissions.” Davis writes that “it would seem preferable for the former administration members to tell their stories to the federal prosecutor rather than to audiences at conferences.” He calls the stories “appalling,” citing incidents of “arrogant disdain for military lawyers” displayed by senior Bush officials, widespread ignorance of military law, “and the general indifference of those tasked with developing detention, interrogation, and military commission policy in the prior administration.” Davis calls on the former adminstration officials to go farther than they did at Case Western: “Names were not named in the conference, but names should be named to John Durham. He is permitted to ‘follow the facts wherever they lead,’ but if those lawyers, other civilians, and uniformed types who know where the dogs are buried refrain from coming forward, they will make the task more arduous than it needs to be. Everyone who has a story is a witness in piecing together what really went on. Every lawyer has also sworn an oath to be an officer of the court and is under an ethical duty to refrain from abetting crimes. Help John Durham find the facts.” He concludes by asking: “[B]eyond legal or ethical obligations, the real question is of what these architects of detention, interrogation, and military commission policy are made of. Are they made of the stuff that led Specialist Darby [Joseph Darby—see January 13, 2004] to clearly see what was wrong with detainee treatment in Abu Ghraib, thus prompting him to provide military investigators with the incriminating photos? Or are these persons made of the stuff of cowards that hope this will all go away if they do not say anything to anyone—posturing in public and cowering in private?” [Jurist, 9/18/2009]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Benjamin Davis, Joseph Darby, US Department of Justice, John Durham

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The House Judiciary Committee accidently reveals the surname of the covert CIA officer who caused the death of Afghan detainee Gul Rahman in November 2002. The officer, whose last name is now known to be Zirbel, had Rahman doused with water then left him with few clothes in the cold. Rahman was later found dead (see November 20, 2002). The surname is uncovered in a footnote to a document drafted by lawyers acting for Jay Bybee, who is accused of improper conduct over his drafting of memos that effectively authorised the CIA to torture prisoners, which the committee posts at its website. Although sections of the document are redacted, it appears censors failed to remove Zirbel’s name in this one instance. After the document is highlighted in the press in late March, the name will be redacted in the version of it posted at the committee’s website, but will survive elsewhere on the Internet. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009 pdf file; Harper's, 3/28/2010; New Yorker, 3/31/2010]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Matthew Zirbel

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The Associated Press publishes an article by Adam Goldman and Kathy Gannon revealing the name of the Afghan detainee who died at the CIA-controlled Salt Pit prison near Kabul in November 2002 (see November 20, 2002). The prisoner is named as Gul Rahman, and further details about his capture and death are also revealed for the first time. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Adam Goldman, Kathy Gannon, Gul Rahman

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer writes that CIA officer Matthew Zirbel, who caused Afghan detainee Gul Rahman to freeze to death in November 2002 (see November 20, 2002), is still employed by the agency. [New Yorker, 3/31/2010; Associated Press, 2/9/2011] The comment is made in a post about Rahman’s death and the aftermath. [New Yorker, 3/31/2010]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Jane Mayer, Matthew Zirbel

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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