[JURIST] Members of the US House Judiciary Committee [official website] on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of torture [press release and letter text] against Bush administration officials. The letter, which was signed by committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) [official websites], and 14 other Democratic members of the committee, called on Holder to prosecute responsible officials where appropriate:
As you are aware, Justice Department regulations provide for the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel when: 1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," (2) the "investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and 3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter." Such counsel is to be appointed from outside the government and should have the authority to secure resources for the investigation and prosecution and have full investigatory and prosecutorial powers.No Republican committee members signed the letter. A Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] spokesperson said that the letter will be reviewed [AP report].
We believe that these three criteria have been met and warrant the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether federal criminal laws were violated by individuals who authorized or participated in the interrogation of detainees.
Earlier this week, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile; JURIST news archive] reiterated his calls for a non-partisan truth commission [JURIST report] to investigate Bush administration officials responsible for authorizing certain interrogation techniques during an interview [transcript, PDF] with CBS. Last week, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] released a report [text; JURIST report] by the DOJ indicating that former attorney general John Ashcroft and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in 2002 approved the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques used by CIA agents against Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainees. The report supports many of the conclusions of a Novemeber Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) [official website] report [text, PDF; JURIST report] detailing the extent of top Bush administration officials' involvement in implementing the techniques, which was declassified [JURIST report] last week. Calls for an independent investigation of Bush administration interrogation policies have intensified recently, after the Obama administration released four top secret memos [JURIST report] outlining the legal rationale behind controversial techniques. Conyers has previously called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into Bush administration policies, releasing a final version of a report [text; PDF] earlier this month reiterating his allegations that the Bush administration engaged in numerous abuses during the "war on terror" and calling on Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether any criminal laws were violated.