WASHINGTON (AP) — Two of the CIA's biggest mistakes made under President George W. Bush are coming under fresh scrutiny.
The CIA's inspector general has resumed asking questions about a botched operation in which the agency mistook a vacationing German citizen for a terrorist, then captured him and held him for months in a secret prison. The Justice Department, meanwhile, has opened a torture and war crimes grand jury investigation into the interrogation and death of a prison at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Both incidents have long been known to the public for years and have been investigated repeatedly. The new developments show that the Justice Department is still not ready to close the book on the 2003 death of prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, and the CIA is still sorting through the internal mistakes that led to Khaled el-Masri's wrongful capture and interrogation.
The investigations are also certain to prompt criticism from Republicans who want these matters put to rest, especially after the CIA located Osama bin Laden and oversaw the raid that killed him last month.
The inquiries were confirmed by people close the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are being conducted in secret. The investigation into al-Jamadi's death was first reported by Time magazine.
Much of the attention surrounding al-Jamadi's death has focused on the actions of interrogator Mark Swanner, who questioned al-Jamadi in a prison shower room before he died. Al-Jamadi's head was covered by a hood. His arms were shackled behind his back and bound to a barred window. That way, he could stand without pain but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be painfully stretched above and behind him.
A military autopsy declared al-Jamadi's death a homicide but an internal CIA investigation found that Swanner never abused al-Jamadi, according to a former senior intelligence official familiar with the findings. A second CIA officer at the prison, however, was sanctioned for not having a doctor examine al-Jamadi when he arrived at the prison badly injured from a struggle with Navy SEALs.
That officer, whom The Associated Press is identifying only as Steve because he retired undercover, was a focus of the CIA's internal investigation. Steve ran the detainee unit at Abu Ghraib and had done similar work with the agency in Afghanistan
Prosecutor John Durham is leading a grand jury investigation in northern Virginia and has looked at approximately a dozen cases that the CIA referred to the Justice Department. Among the more well-known ones, Durham is investigating the death of an Iraqi general who died at a forward operating base in 2003 near the Syrian border at the hands of an agency paramilitary unit and an Afghan who froze to death inside a secret CIA prison.
The CIA inspector general's renewed interest in the botched el-Masri rendition could mean new questions for the counterterrorism analyst who backed the operation and for the lawyer who approved it. The lawyer was reprimanded years ago. The analyst was spared any punishment, however, a disparity in treatment that bristled some inside the agency.
The inspector general's inquiry had been on hold while the Justice Department investigated. It closed the books on the el-Masri case in late 2010, a person familiar with the case said.