CIA comes under scrutiny for two deaths. Image: Jonathon Narvey/Flickr/CC BY

The U.S. Justice Department is launching a criminal investigation into the deaths of two people held in U.S. custody overseas. The two people died during CIA interrogations.

Two deaths will be probed

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., the Justice Department will continue a full-scale criminal investigation into two deaths. Simultaneously, Holder says, he has accepted the conclusion of Assistant U.S. Attorney John Dunham that no charges should be made in the interrogations of 99 other detainees.

“Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals,” Holder said. “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.”

CIA practices are questioned

The detainees were all taken into custody after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Dunham has conducted a long-term investigations into the interrogation practices used during the George W. Bush administration. The CIA was criticized and came under scrutiny at the time over a practice known as “waterboarding.” Some believe the interrogation method is a form of torture.

The two detainees are not identified

Holder did not identify the two detainees. However, a federal grand jury, led by Dunham, has been investigating the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, who was beaten to death in 2003 in an Iraqi prison. One Navy SEAL was connected with the beating death, but has since been acquitted.

The death of Gul Rahman has also been part of Dunham’s probe, according to the Washington Post. He was a young Afghan man who was also beaten to death in 2002 in a place called “The Salt Pit.” Prior to his death, the man was allegedly chained to a concrete floor, beaten and left without blankets.

Intelligence community ready to move on

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, who is the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said:

“The attorney general’s decision is a significant step forward. I am pleased that the Department of Justice has finally substantially lifted an undeserved cloud of doubt and suspicion from all of our intelligence professionals.”

Outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta, on his last day of the job, also portrayed the news as a victory for U.S. intelligence.

“We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency’s history. As director, I have always believed that our primary responsibility is not to the past, but to the present and future threats to the nation.”

New CIA director takes his post

Thursday, General David Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate as the new director of the CIA.


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