Mukasey Rejects Inquiry

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey rejected calls to appoint a special counsel to investigate Bush administration officials who approved the use of coercive interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.

In a letter sent yesterday to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Mukasey said opening a criminal investigation would be "unfair" and "seriously short-sighted."

"I am aware of no basis for appointing a special counsel to investigate the policymakers who approved the CIA interrogation program or the national security lawyers who concluded that the program was lawful," he wrote to Conyers and nearly five dozen other Democrats.

Critics of the administration's policy have likened the questioning tactics to torture and have called for senior policymakers to be held accountable. Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility, which probes ethics complaints against department lawyers, is conducting its own investigation of Justice memos that blessed controversial techniques including simulated drowning and sleep deprivation.

Conyers and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) earlier this summer asked the attorney general to examine whether President Bush and other executives ran afoul of war- crime and anti-torture statutes. They called the interrogations of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a "shameful episode."

But Mukasey said that government officials acted in "good faith" when they sought legal opinions, and that the lawyers who provided them used their best judgment.

He warned that criminalizing the process could cause policymakers to second-guess themselves and "harm our national security well into the future."

-- Carrie Johnson

© 2008 The Washington Post Company