By Terry Frieden
The Justice Department on Thursday closed its criminal investigation of the deaths of two prisoners in CIA custody, ending a controversial investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder had approved more than a year ago.
The investigation, conducted by veteran Justice prosecutor John Durham, examined alleged CIA interrogation abuses in connection with prisoner deaths at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and at a secret prison in Afghanistan in 2002.
If the probe had led to criminal charges against CIA officers or contractors, it could have ignited a firestorm of objections by Republican lawmakers and the national security community.
Holder acknowledged that he made a controversial decision to appointed Durham in 2009 to examine allegations of CIA interrogation abuses in about 100 cases. His aides say he was aware the Obama White House wanted the torture controversies put behind it, but Holder pressed on. Republican lawmakers and the CIA were upset about the new review of alleged detainee mistreatment. FULL POST
By Carol Cratty
A civilian guard at a new U.S. consulate in China pleaded guilty on Thursday to attempting to sell Chinese security officials photographs and access to the compound so they could plant listening devices.
According to a court proffer, Bryan Underwood had lost a significant amount of money in the stock market and hoped to make between $3 million and $5 million by supplying classified photos and information to China's Ministry of State Security.
Underwood, 32, appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the government agreed to drop charges that Underwood made false statements and that he failed to appear at a court hearing last year. FULL POST
From Barbara Starr
The Pentagon general counsel threatened legal action Thursday against a former Navy SEAL who wrote a revealing book about last year's Osama bin Laden raid, warning him he has violated secrecy agreements and broken federal law.
In a letter addressed to "Mark Owen," the pen name of book author Matt Bissonnette, General Counsel Jeh Charles Johnson wrote the Pentagon is considering pursuing "all remedies legally available" against the former SEAL and his publisher, Penguin Putnam.
"In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the nondisclosure agreements you signed. Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements," Johnson wrote.
By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Bashar al-Assad is "increasingly disconnected from reality," according to a senior Obama administration official in dismissing assertions by the Syrian president that the situation in his violence-torn country is improving.
The White House added that Assad's comments only showed "how delusional" the embattled leader has become.
"Only if 'better' means more Syrian people - innocent Syrian people – are dying at the hands of his soldiers; only 'better' if it means that his thugs are moving through the streets of various cities and rounding people up," presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The Obama administration sentiment came as Human Rights Watch reported that Syrian forces had bombed and fired artillery at 10 bakeries in Aleppo province, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.