Following decisions by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department is set to appoint John Durham to lead a fresh inquiry into the assorted violations of anti-torture law committed by the CIA and its contractors. Durham was previously charged with deciding if the destruction of CIA videotapes showing waterboarding constituted obstruction of justice.
The probe looks to be incredibly narrow in scope, likely covering only CIA personnel who decided to violate such laws on their own and not those who did so under orders or advice from administration officials. The officials themselves are likewise not covered by the probe.
President Obama had previously reassured interrogators that they wouldn’t face prosecution for any of the crimes they committed, but later said the final call was up to the Attorney General. The president seemed personally dismissive of the reports of widespread prisoner abuse, proclaiming simply “that’s how we learn.”
The notion of the probe has sparked considerable outrage among Republican senators, many of whom claim even the hint of a dubious investigation that’s unlikely to ever punish anyone for the widespread abuse would be a threat to national security and an insult to the interrogators.