[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [press release] Monday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will "open a preliminary review" into allegations of prisoner abuse by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] interrogators during the Bush administration. Holder's decision follows a recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website]. Holder appointed Assistant US Attorney John Durham [NYT profile] to lead the investigation. Durham was appointed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey in 2008 to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations. Holder said:
There are those who will use my decision to open a preliminary review as a means of broadly criticizing the work of our nations intelligence community. I could not disagree more with that view. 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. Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals.
The White House press secretary said [press release] Monday that President Barack Obama would not prevent Holder from opening investigations despite the president's stated desire to look towards the future, not the past. ABC News reported [text] that CIA Director Leon Panetta was enraged by Holder's decision and may resign from his position, although the White House denied the report. A CIA inspector general report detailing the treatment of prisoners, which reportedly influenced Holder's decision to reopen the investigations, is expected to be released [CIA press release] later on Monday.
Bush-era intelligence policy has been highly contested since the change in administration earlier this year. In July, members of Congress urged an investigation [JURIST report] into a CIA assassination plan that former vice president Dick Cheney allegedly hid from Congress. Also in July, five federal agencies released a report [text; JURIST report] on the prior administration's warrantless wiretapping program that reviewed both the flawed legal origins of the program and questioned the effectiveness of information produced by wiretapping international communications of American citizens. In May, Cheney defended the national security policies [speech transcript; JURIST report] of the Bush administration speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) [organization website], while criticizing many of Obama's security policies.