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Special Prosecutor Moves in CIA Tapes Case

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Last week, President Obama comforted CIA agents by assuring them that there would be no prosecutions related to the torture program. But his words were carefully chosen. In fact, it appears increasingly likely that some sort of criminal charges are in the works. Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report:

Prosecutor John Durham has summoned CIA operatives back from overseas to testify before a federal grand jury, according to three legal sources familiar with the case who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters. The sources said Durham is also seeking testimony from agency lawyers who gave advice relating to the November 2005 decision by Jose Rodriguez, then chief of the CIA’s operations directorate, to destroy the tapes. The flurry of activity has surprised some lawyers on the case who had assumed Durham was planning to wind down his probe without bringing charges. Now they’re not so sure. Durham, who declined to comment, might simply be tying up loose ends in a closely watched case. But one continuing point of inquiry could spell trouble for the agency: allegations that CIA officials may have made false statements or obstructed justice in the case of convicted Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

In the midst of the discussion about whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to deal with the Bush torture legacy, commentators tend to forget that there are already two special prosecutors looking into Bush-era criminality who were appointed by former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. One of them is John Durham, a career prosecutor from New England who handled a high-profile mob investigation in Boston as well as the inquiry that took down Governor John G. Rowland in Connecticut. He was appointed to look into the mysterious disappearance of some 92 tapes of high-value detainees in CIA custody. Federal prosecutors in Virginia told a court that they didn’t exist; they later claimed to have been misled by the CIA. Because court orders had been issued to turn over the tapes, obstruction of justice may be inferred from their destruction.

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