Justice Department Closes Probe Into Detainee Deaths

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Officials at the Justice Department have closed an investigation into the deaths of two detainees in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan without bringing any criminal charges. The probe opened a huge rift with the intelligence community. But now it's human rights groups that are outraged.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The Justice Department will not bring any criminal charges in the deaths of two detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prosecutors say they don't have enough evidence to prove the men had been tortured by CIA interrogators. Human rights groups are outraged. NPR's Carrie Johnson has more.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Beaten and tied to a cold wall made of concrete, one of the detainees died in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002. The other man died a year later, in 2003, in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. An autopsy ruled his death a homicide. But no one will be prosecuted. The Justice Department says there's not enough evidence to persuade a jury to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

Three years ago, intelligence officials and Republicans in Congress blasted Attorney General Eric Holder for reopening investigations into the deaths. Now, Melina Milazzo, of Human Rights First, is furious.

MELINA MILAZZO: It's shocking that the department's review of hundreds of instances of torture and abuse will fail to hold even one person accountable.

JOHNSON: President Obama renounced torture after he took office and embraced less harsh interrogation methods. He also signaled he wanted to look forward to new challenges, not backward, a message that CIA director David Petraeus reiterated yesterday for agency employees. Human rights groups say that leaves no one accountable. Melina Milazzo.

MILAZZO: Attorney General Holder's announcement is disappointing, because it's well documented that in the aftermath of 9/11, torture and abuse was widespread and systematic.

JOHNSON: The attorney general went out of his way to say the investigation was limited to figuring out whether the Justice Department could prosecute anyone, not a statement that detainees had been treated properly.

Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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