It’s a good day for releasing bad news, and the presidents’ lawyers on Thursday announced they were dropping two long-standing criminal investigations of CIA officials.
The investigations were politically unpopular with the public, and potentially risky for President Barack Obama, whose relatively high poll ratings rest in part on his successful killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2010.
That popular killing was achieved with the aid of CIA and military interrogations that were being investigated by Holders’ deputies during the three-year investigation.
However, Thursday’s announcement still carries risks for Obama, in part because his deputies did not concede innocence to the CIA officials, or even accept the Justice Department’s secondary role in the long-standing war against foreign jihadis.
In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder even used the Aug. 30 announcement to undermine the legal and moral authority of the military and CIA.
“The Attorney General announced today the closure of the criminal investigations into the death of two individuals while in United States custody at overseas locations… the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” said an Aug. 30 statement from Holder.
“Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed and was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct,” Holder said in the final paragraph if his Aug. 30 statement.
The investigations were approved in 2009 by Obama and Holder amid demands by their progressive allies for a shutdown of CIA and military interrogations — some of which used “waterboarding” practices — and for the imposition of attorney oversight over battlefield military operations.
Progressives argued that “waterboarding” amounted to torture, even though such tactics are routinely used on U.S. troops when training them to survive capture.
Partly because of public opposition, the progressives’ campaign failed to win lawyers’ oversight of military operations, or to transfer captured top-level jihadis from the military’s Guantanamo Bay-based courts to civilian courts.
If they had been transferred, the military’s status-boosting role in the war against jihadis would have been reduced to the collection and transport of suspects to the courts. Correspondingly, civilian lawyers and judges would have won the status-boosting task of punishing high-profile jjhadis — including the people who arranged the 9/11 slaughter in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
That political goal is still shared by Holder, who used his Aug. 30 statement to suggest continuing improprieties by the CIA and military.
Still, Holder and his allied progressives have succeeded in sharply restricting CIA and military interrogations of captured jihadis.
Those interrogations were a small but critical part of the broad effort to gather information on the activities of numerous jihadi groups and their political allies, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, interrogation of jihadis caught in Iraq, including Hassan Ghul, provided critical information that revealed Osama bin Laden’s hideout alongside Pakistan’s primary military academy.
Holder’s three-year investigation interrogated CIA and military officials about the treatment of 101 suspect jihadis and Iraqi gunmen.
Holder’s investigations were shaped, in part, by non-government groups. They included the authors of “the February 2007 International Committee of the Red Cross Report on the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody, and public source information,” said the Aug. 30 statement.
The second-last paragraph of Holder’s Aug. 30 statement provided a personal compliment to the military and CIA officials for fighting the jihadis since 9/11.
“I also appreciate and respect the work of and sacrifices made by the men and women in our intelligence community on behalf of this country,” said Holder. “They 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.”