Skip to main content

Justice narrows CIA torture probe to 2 deaths

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: The Abu Ghraib "ice man's" death is one of the cases under scrutiny, official says
  • A special prosecutor has cleared U.S. interrogators in all but 2 cases
  • Those cases involve the deaths of prisoners in American custody
  • The probe was launched in 2008 and widened in 2009

Washington (CNN) -- A special prosecutor has recommended a criminal probe into the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody but cleared U.S. interrogators of wrongdoing in 99 others, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

"I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. "Those investigations are ongoing. The department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted."

The special prosecutor, John Durham, examined the treatment of 101 prisoners in U.S. custody, not all of whom were held by the CIA. In a message to employees, outgoing CIA chief Leon Panetta said the agency will "cooperate fully" in the remaining cases -- but said they already had been reviewed by career prosecutors who did not pursue charges.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said one of the cases is the 2003 death of the "ice man," Manadel al-Jamadi, an inmate who died after being interrogated in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Among the photos at the heart of the 2004 scandal over the abuse of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib were snapshots of U.S. soldiers posing over al-Jamadi's remains, which had been packed on ice.

A U.S. military autopsy ruled the death a homicide, indicating al-Jamadi died from blunt-force injuries complicated by restricted breathing. He had been shackled to a wall with his head covered by a hood while questioned by a CIA interrogator.

Al-Jamadi had been injured when captured by a U.S. Navy SEAL team in November 2003, as U.S. forces battled a rising insurgency following the invasion of Iraq that March. But he had been able to walk into the prison, and a Navy lieutenant accused of beating him after his arrest was later acquitted.

The second case was not immediately known.

Durham's investigation began in 2008, originally to look into the CIA's destruction of videotapes of the interrogations of top al Qaeda prisoners. Holder widened the scope of the investigation in 2009, ordering Durham to look into whether U.S. interrogations violated American laws against torture.

The interrogations took place under relaxed rules issued by the Bush administration, which authorized what it called

"enhanced interrogation techniques" following the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. Critics have argued the tactics -- including the use of "waterboarding," or simulated drowning, on three high-ranking captives -- crossed the line into torture.

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, declared Durham's findings "vindication" for most of the agents who took part in the interrogations.

"I hope that this decision will allow our intelligence professionals to move forward with their critical work free from the chilling effect of further investigation, and with the deserved full confidence of the American people," Rogers said in a statement hailing the results.

"Similarly, I expect that the criminal investigation announced today will be continued in a manner fully consistent with the principle reaffirmed by the attorney general that we will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal advice."

CNN's Carol Cratty and Pam Benson contributed to this report.