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US acquits CIA of killing and torturing of prisoners

Published time: August 31, 2012 13:01
Edited time: August 31, 2012 17:02
The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia (Reuters / Larry Downing)

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia (Reuters / Larry Downing)

The US Justice Department ended a four-year probe into the CIA’s controversial, and at times brutal, treatment of detainees, closing two final homicide investigations without filing charges. The decision sparked outrage among human rights supporters.

­US Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday that no charges will be filed in the cases of two terror suspects who died in CIA custody – one in Iraq in 2003 and another in Afghanistan in 2002. "The admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt," Holder said.

Gul Rahman died in 2002 at a secret prison in Afghanistan known as the ‘Salt Pit’ after being bound to a wall in near-freezing temperatures. Manadel al-Jamadi, also a suspected militant, died in 2003 in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib, where his corpse was photographed, wrapped in plastic and packed in ice.

The two cases were the final verdicts in a widespread criminal probe by federal prosecutor John Durham into interrogation techniques used during the presidency of George W. Bush. Durham determined that a number of the detainees were never in CIA custody, and all the cases have now been closed without charges.

Durham examined the treatment of 101 detainees who were taken into custody by the US in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. The probe, which lasted more than four years, began in 2008 in the wake of an investigation into the CIA's destruction of videotapes of interrogations of terror suspects. The case was later expanded to include the deaths of the two prisoners.

Thursday’s decision sparked outrage among human rights groups.

“It is hugely disappointing that with ample evidence of torture, and documented cases of some people actually being tortured to death, that the Justice Department has not been able to mount a successful prosecution and hold people responsible for these crimes,” Human Rights First President Elisa Massimino told The New York Times. “The American people need to know what was done in their name.”

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, slammed the decision as "nothing short of a scandal," adding that, “The Justice Department has declined to bring charges against the officials who authorized torture, the lawyers who sought to legitimate it, and the interrogators who used it. It has successfully shut down every legal suit meant to hold officials civilly liable.”

Jaffer claimed that today’s ruling “sends the dangerous signal to government officials that there will be no consequences for their use of torture and other cruelty.”

CIA Director David Petraeus thanked his team for cooperating with the investigation, Reuters reported. “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,” he said.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, under whose watch the alleged torture took place, said he was “heartened” that the investigation into the CIA’s conduct and practices had ended. “I am sorry that CIA officers had to go through yet another review of their activities,” he said.

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