U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Department of Justice was opening an investigation into the deaths of two prisoners who allegedly perished in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) custody.
The decision, however, means the end of a broader probe of the agency’s use of torture during the Bush administration.
Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA director who’s slated to lead the Department of Defense, praised the decision and expressed relief to reporters “that the broader inquiries are behind us.”
He added that “our primary responsibility is not to the past, but to the present and future threats to the nation.”
In announcing the probe of the two men’s deaths, Holder insisted that further investigation into other torture claims was “not warranted.”
“The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances,” he said. “They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do.”
The larger probe had sought to examine the interrogations of 101 prisoners in CIA custody.
Holder said their years-long probe ultimately ended up investigating “information and matters that had never previously been examined by the Department,” but that only these two deaths were worthy of a criminal investigation.
As many as 92 tapes of terror war captives being tortured by CIA operatives were allegedly destroyed. Officials suggested these recordings depicted torture sessions with terrorism suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.
Along with the tapes, detailed records of the CIA’s so-called “torture flights,” showing the planes, destinations and even the passengers, were also said destroyed.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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