Michael Isikoff's Questions for A.G. Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder, you've made quite a splash this week with the news that you’re “leaning” toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate brutal interrogations that took place during the Bush administration. But this disclosure has raised as many questions as it answers. Here are a few I would suggest you address in the next few weeks when, we are told, you are expected to make your announcement.

1. You have told one associate that some of what you read in internal government reports about interrogation abuses "turned my stomach." What was it you've read that caused such a reaction? And why have Justice Department lawyers recently filed motions (on behalf of the CIA) declining to release, or delaying the release, of these same reports? Doesn't the public deserve to know the full story about such abuses sooner rather than later?

2. You reportedly spent two days late last month closely studying one of those documents—the CIA inspector-general report completed in May 2004—and its findings "shocked and saddened" you. But this report has been in the possession of the Justice Department for more than five years. Why do you think your predecessors didn't have the same reaction to that report as you did? And given the fact that you were sworn in Feb. 3, and your obvious interest in this subject, why did it take you four and a half months to read the report?

3. Your aides have said this is only about investigating operatives and contractors who went beyond the "four corners" of Justice Department legal memos on interrogations. In addition, they have told us your planned probe will not investigate senior Bush administration officials—at the Justice Department, the CIA, and the White House—who gave the green light to the "enhanced" interrogation techniques that were authorized in the memos. If that is the case, don't you risk a repeat of Abu Ghraib, in which only low-level soldiers were court-martialed and their superiors walked free, with no penalties at all?

4. In a speech in Washington last March, you said the following: "Waterboarding is torture. My Justice Department will not justify it, will not rationalize it, and will not condone it." Do you still stand by that statement? And if so, please explain how you square those words with your decision to exclude the individuals who designed, approved, and ordered waterboarding from the scope of your investigation?

5. As you may know, the CIA inspector general referred the most egregious cases of detainee abuse to the Justice Department years ago. These cases were investigated by a task force, consisting of career prosecutors, in the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va. But in all but one case, the task force concluded that there were not criminal prosecutions to be made because of a lack of witnesses, forensic evidence, and other problems. Have you consulted with any of the prosecutors who worked on these cases to determine why they reached those conclusions? And why do you think a new investigation years later will reach a different conclusion?

6. If whoever you choose as the prosecutor ends up declining to bring indictments, won't the net result be a Justice Department investigation that will forever be concealed from the public because of grand-jury secrecy? Or will you direct your prosecutor to prepare a public report—in much the same way independent counsels were previously required to do so by law—so the American people once and for all can know the truth about this subject?

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