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U.S. probes two detainee deaths

June 30, 2011 at 2:33 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday the U.S. Justice Department will conduct criminal investigations into the deaths of two detainees in U.S. custody.

The attorney general did not say whether the two detainees, taken into custody overseas after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, were undergoing CIA interrogations as opposed to interrogations by other U.S. officials.

But Holder said on the advice of a special investigator he has determined an investigation of about 100 other detainee interrogations is "not warranted." From Holder's statement, it is apparent the "not warranted" conclusion includes the destruction of CIA videotapes of interrogations.

In January 2008, then Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut "to conduct a criminal investigation into the destruction of interrogation videotapes by the Central Intelligence Agency," Holder said in a statement.

Based "on information the department received pertaining to the alleged CIA mistreatment of detainees," Holder said he expanded Durham's mandate on Aug. 24, 2009, "to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations. I made clear at that time that the department would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the (Justice Department's) Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees."

Holder said Durham's review focused primarily on "whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute."

Durham examined any possible CIA involvement with the interrogation of 101 detainees in U.S. custody after the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks, "a number of whom were determined by Mr. Durham to have never been in CIA custody," Holder said.

Durham's "review included both information and matters that had never previously been examined by the department," Holder said. "Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals. Those investigations are ongoing. The department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted."

Holder said "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. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do. However, I concluded based on information available to me (in 2009), and continue to believe now, that the department needed to thoroughly examine the detainee treatment issue. I am confident that Mr. Durham's thorough review has satisfied that need."

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