Shifting its approach from earlier this year, when it said there will be no investigations of the controversial interrogation techniques practiced during the Bush administration, the government has tasked a federal prosecutor with determining whether the CIA interrogations of terrorist suspects were illegal.
John Durham, an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut, was asked by Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a preliminary review of available material to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a full investigation of whether anti-torture laws were broken during the questioning of detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay.
The administration also reaffirmed that intelligence personnel acting in good faith and under the guidance from previous administration’s lawyers will not be prosecuted.
The decision was praised by human and civil rights organizations, which have been pressing President Obama since he took office last January to order a thorough investigation into what they believe was torture practiced by U.S. government employees.
However, according to Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA’s executive director, "[Holder's decision] is a welcome, yet incomplete, step."
He adds, "Any meaningful investigation would encompass both those who claimed they were following orders and those who designed and demanded that the illegal policies be implemented."
On Monday, it was also announced that Obama approved the creation of an interrogation unit that will become part of the FBI, meaning the White House will be able to exert a more direct control over its work.