Federal prosecutors will not file criminal charges against anyone for destroying CIA videotapes that depicted the harsh interrogation of terrorism detainees during the Bush administration, the Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday.
A Justice Department spokesman said in a statement that after an “exhaustive investigation into the matter,” a federal prosecutor “has concluded that he will not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes.”
The news was first reported by NPR’s Carrie Johnson. NPR’s report cites two sources close to the investigation who said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham has concluded there is not enough evidence to bring an indictment.
As TPMmuckraker noted yesterday, Justice Department officials had no comment as the statute of limitations expired this week on the criminal law covering the destruction of the tapes in November 2005. The 92 videotapes showed the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Here’s the statement issued Tuesday by Matthew Miller, Director of the Office of Public Affairs:
“In January 2008, Attorney General Michael Mukasey appointed Assistant United States Attorney John Durham to investigate the destruction by CIA personnel of videotapes of detainee interrogations. Since that time, a team of prosecutors and FBI agents led by Mr. Durham has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. As a result of that investigation, Mr. Durham has concluded that he will not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes.”
Former CIA official Jose Rodriguez approved the destruction of the tapes. He did not testify before the grand jury, NPR reported.
According to NPR:
It’s still possible that a current or former CIA official could face charges for misleading investigators or otherwise obstructing justice, related areas that the prosecutor has been investigating for more than two years.
Many of the 92 videotapes contained innocuous images of detainees, but a few showed interrogators deploying harsh tactics against al-Qaida money man Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole while it docked in Yemen.
Attorney General Eric Holder had expanded Durham’s mandate to look at whether any CIA personnel or contractors went beyond what he has called the “pretty far-out” Office of Legal Counsel opinions approving interrogation methods. That probe was launched in August 2009, and has come under criticism for being too narrow in scope. NPR reports that that inquiry continues.
Editor’s Note: This post has been added to since it was first published.