AG took right measure in probe of CIA conduct
The U.S. attorney general has appointed a federal prosecutor to investigate the CIA's destruction of interrogation videotapes.
Taking over as head of the highly politicized Justice Department from predecessor Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has taken a needed step away from the destruction of Central Intelligence Agency videotapes of interrogations of alleged terrorists. His appointment of a career federal prosecutor outside of Washington, D.C., to investigate improprieties to determine illegality should bring justice to the issue.
The joint inquiry of the videotapes' destruction between Justice and the CIA begun on Dec. 8 was highly suspect, but Mukasey said he concluded from the review "that there is a basis for initiating a criminal investigation of this matter." He assigned John H. Durham, a veteran reputable prosecutor from Connecticut, to lead the criminal inquiry.
Durham's status is not as independent as that of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who led the investigation leading to the perjury and obstruction prosecution of I. Lewis Libby Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. While Fitzgerald held the powers of the attorney general after his appointment by John Ashcroft, Bush's first attorney general, Durham will report to the deputy attorney general.
However, Durham's probe and probable grand jury inquiry are likely to extend into the next administration, free of influence from the Bush administration. Four high-level White House lawyers, including Gonzales and Harriet E. Miers, Gonzales' successor as White House counsel, were approached about the proposal to destroy the tapes.
Investigations already have begun by the Senate and House intelligence committees. The House panel, which has reviewed CIA documents related to the destruction of the tapes, has called government witnesses to testify at a hearing on Jan. 16.
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