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No charges in destruction of CIA videotapes, Justice Department says
A spokesman for Durham declined to comment Tuesday, and Justice Department officials would not elaborate on Miller's statement. The statute of limitations on criminal charges for the destruction of the videotapes expired this week.
In January 2008, then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed Durham, a federal prosecutor, to examine whether intelligence officials broke the law by destroying the videos.
The tapes cover the interrogations of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, an alleged facilitator of terrorism better known as Abu Zubaida, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi suspected of involvement in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole as it docked for refueling in a Yemeni port. Sources said the tapes showed waterboarding of the two suspects, along with more mundane shots of them in their cells.
In August 2009, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded Durham's mandate to include the actions of CIA interrogators and contractors. Sources have said that probe is focused on a few cases of alleged detainee abuse, including at least one in which an Afghan prisoner died at a secret CIA facility after being beaten and chained to a concrete floor.
The decision to expand Durham's investigation triggered vehement criticism from Republicans and some former CIA officials, who said it could hamper intelligence operations.
The Washington Post reported in March that Durham's probe of the videotapes' destruction was winding down and that investigators were encountering legal roadblocks in bringing a case.
CIA officials have long said the motive was innocent: After the emergence of widely reviled images of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, CIA veterans feared that disclosing the videotapes could put the interrogators' safety at risk if their identities became known.
Durham's team of prosecutors and FBI agents have been exploring whether the tapes were instead destroyed in anticipation of a congressional or federal investigation, which could constitute a crime. Sources familiar with the probe described on Tuesday a relentless investigation, in which Durham brought CIA lawyers, operatives and others before a federal grand jury and probed for inconsistencies in their accounts. Some witnesses testified four or five times, sources said.
But sources have said authorities found it difficult to pinpoint the motivation for destroying the tapes, and that it was difficult to prove criminal intent.
Rodriguez, a top CIA official from 2004 to 2007, authorized the tapes' destruction and has been a key focus of the inquiry. Sources said Tuesday that he will not be charged.
Robert S. Bennett, an attorney for Rodriguez, said he is "pleased that the Justice Department has decided not to go forward against Mr. Rodriguez. This is the right decision because of the facts and the law.''
"Jose Rodriguez is an American hero, a true patriot who only wanted to protect his people and his country," Bennett said.
John A. Rizzo, the CIA's former acting general counsel, said in an e-mail that the Justice Department's announcement "will come as a relief to the agency and the many innocent employees who found themselves ensnared in this nearly three-year investigation." Rizzo was not made aware of the decision to destroy the tapes and has said he was angered by it.
Staff writer Jeff Stein and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.