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Will Justice Go After Cheney?

"It couldn't be learned whether Rodriguez, who's declined to speak publicly, will assert that he was acting on orders from above, but former colleagues say he was a cautious officer."

Evan Perez writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "Some Democrats . . . have pushed for the Justice Department to name an independent special counsel and aren't pleased with the appointment of Mr. Durham, who will report directly to the deputy attorney general. The law governing independent counsels expired in 1999, when Congress didn't renew it. In the case of the investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame, overseen by Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, some critics of the Bush administration complained that the probe never answered key questions because he didn't publish a final investigative report, as an independent counsel would do.

"Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said of Mr. Mukasey's move: 'Because of this action, the Congress and the American people will be denied -- as they were in the Valerie Plame matter -- any final report on the investigation.'"

Dafna Linzer writes in The Washington Post: "John H. Durham, who was appointed yesterday to lead a criminal probe into the destruction of the CIA's interrogation tapes, oversaw corruption charges against a Republican governor in Connecticut, put away FBI agents in Boston and prosecuted many of New England's Mafia bosses. . . .

"Former colleagues said the deputy U.S. attorney is known for seeking maximum sentences, shunning plea bargains and avoiding the spotlight. Four friends said they could not recall him losing a case in more than 30 years as a prosecutor, almost all of it spent fighting organized crime and gang violence in Connecticut. . . .

"Several courtroom adversaries compared Durham, a Roman Catholic reared in the Northeast, to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the staid U.S. attorney in Chicago who served as special prosecutor in the investigation of the leaked identity of a CIA officer. 'He's Fitzgerald with a sense of humor,' said Hugh O'Keefe, a Connecticut criminal defense lawyer who has known Durham for 20 years.

"But Durham has had little experience with national security issues and with cases involving executive authority that appear to be less than black-and-white. His probe may require calling lawyers and aides to Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the CIA before a grand jury to testify about their knowledge of the tapes' destruction."

Matt Apuzzo notes for the Associated Press: "Since leaving the White House shortly before Christmas, President Bush has not addressed the tapes' destruction. Before going to Camp David, then his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush said he was confident that investigations by Congress and the Justice Department 'will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened.'

"He repeated his assertion that his 'first recollection' of being told about the tapes and their destruction was when CIA Director Michael Hayden briefed him on it in early December."

Opinion Watch

The New York Times editorial board writes: "It is essential that the truth of what was on those tapes and how they came to be destroyed now comes out and that all of the government officials involved in their destruction be held legally accountable -- whether they are C.I.A. officers or top White House officials who spent three years debating whether to destroy the tapes.

"The tapes, which depicted the interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives in 2002, may themselves have amounted to evidence of a crime -- torture -- carried out under the president's authority. The decision to destroy them appears to be one more move by the Bush administration to cover up the many abuses it has committed in the name of fighting terrorism."

The Washington Post editorial board writes: "In all likelihood, the Justice Department investigation will focus narrowly on whether the destruction of the tapes constituted a crime; it will probably not delve into whether the tapes depicted a crime, namely torture. Congress should continue to demand answers about the administration's past and current detention and interrogation policies."


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