The Obama administration on Thursday informed CIA officials who used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects that they will not be prosecuted, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
Even before President Barack Obama took office in January, aides signaled his administration was not likely to bring criminal charges against CIA employees for their roles in the secret, coercive terrorist interrogation program. It had been deemed legal at the time through opinions issued by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.
But the statement being issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time.
The officials spoke about the Holder statement ahead of its release on condition of anonymity, so as not to pre-empt the attorney general.
The CIA has acknowledged using waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, on three high-level terror detainees in 2002 and 2003, with the permission of the White House and the Justice Department. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said waterboarding has not been used since, but some human rights groups have urged Obama to hold CIA employees accountable for what they, and many Obama officials and others around the world, say was torture.