[JURIST] US House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) [official website] sent a letter [text] Tuesday to Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency ordered the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive]. In the letter, Conyers wrote that:
Justice Department regulations require the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel when: 1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," 2) the "investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and 3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.Conyers asserted that all three of the conditions exist, and has asked Mukasey to either appoint the outside counsel, or to explain why he refrains from doing so under each of the three criteria.
The Department of Justice announced its criminal probe [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes earlier this month. John Durham, the first assistant United States attorney in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut, is heading the investigation. Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] last month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. In addition to the DOJ investigation, multiple congressional inquiries have been launched into the tapes' destruction. AP has more.