Holder will enforce law in CIA interrogations case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday he will not allow criminalization of policy differences over CIA interrogations, but will pursue any wrongdoing.

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington April 23, 2009. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Critics of interrogation methods such as waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning -- used by the CIA on some terrorism suspects are calling for a full investigation and possible prosecution of U.S. officials responsible for the interrogation policies developed by the Bush administration.

Some Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of seeking to prosecute over policy differences.

“I will not permit the criminalization of policy differences. However, it is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law,” Holder told a congressional hearing. “If I see wrongdoing, I will pursue it to the full extent of the law.”

President Barack Obama decided last week to release memos written during former President George W. Bush’s administration laying out the legal justifications for harsh interrogation techniques after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Obama has said that CIA interrogators who acted in good faith based on that legal guidance would not be prosecuted. But the door was left open to the possibility of prosecuting Bush administration officials who developed the interrogation policies.

“There is always prosecutorial discretion,” Holder said. “I will try to apply the law and facts as best I can, working with the career prosecutors.”

Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia echoed calls by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republicans for declassifying any memos showing that the interrogations produced useful information from terrorism suspects.

Holder said he was open to releasing additional documents, but said other agencies also had interrogation records and he had authority only over the Justice Department ones.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked about a classified briefing she received in 2002 from the Bush administration on interrogation techniques, said she was never told waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques were being used.

“They did not tell us they were using that, flat out, and any contention to the contrary is simply not true,” she said.

Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; writing by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Will Dunham