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Senator Durbin Demands Update On Detainee Abuse Cases December 20, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–A key Democratic senator asked the Justice Department on Monday for an update on its progress prosecuting government employees who were accused in at least 17 cases of abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In response, a Justice spokesman said at least some of the cases are still under investigation.

In a letter sent Monday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, incoming Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that the department began looking into the allegations of abuse two and a half years ago.

“In that time, there have not been any indictments in any of these cases,” wrote Durbin, who first pressed the Justice Department for a prosecutions update in November 2005, when now-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was seeking Senate confirmation.

“It is my understanding that since then, the Justice Department has not commented publicly on the status of any of these cases,” wrote Durbin, who sits on the Senate panel that oversees the Justice Department.

In response to Durbin’s first request, the Justice Department revealed in a Jan. 17 letter that it had opened 20 investigations into claims of detainee abuse that were referred to prosecutors by the Pentagon and the CIA. The investigations were being led by a task force in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Virginia’s eastern district – which McNulty headed before taking the Justice Department’s No. 2 job in March.

Two of those cases were dropped because of insufficient evidence to support a prosecution, the Justice Department letter noted. Additionally, another case resulted in the indictment of a former CIA contractor in North Carolina.

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said at least a few of the estimated 17 remaining cases are still open. “The Justice Department continues to investigate these cases,” Roehrkasse said Monday. He declined further comment.

The New York Times reported on its Web site Monday that a Justice Department team has decided against prosecuting nearly all of the 20 cases that were initially under investigation. It was not immediately clear precisely how many cases remain open, and Roehrkasse refused to respond to the newspaper’s report.

Privately, Justice officials have acknowledged difficulties in tracking down reliable witnesses or preserving enough evidence to bring strong cases against the accused employees.

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