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Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 15:34 UK

Calls to reopen CIA abuse cases

Iraqi detainee in Baquba, 2005
The report will reveal more about the abuse of inmates in CIA prisons

The US justice department is calling for about a dozen prisoner abuse cases to be reopened, US media say.

The recommendation could lead to the prosecution of CIA employees and contractors over the treatment of terrorism suspects, the reports say.

The call comes as justice officials are set to disclose previously censored parts of a key report on inmate abuse.

President Barack Obama is also now reported to have approved a new elite team to question key terror suspects.

Criminal inquiry

The call for the reopening of the prisoner abuse cases - mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan - was made by the US Department of Justice's ethics office, the New York Times reported.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

The cases account for about half of those that were referred to the justice department by the inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but which were later closed.

The recommendations to review some cases, which would reverse Bush administration policy, have been sent to US Attorney General Eric Holder.

He is set to announce soon whether he will appoint a prosecutor to investigate alleged abuse by CIA agents.

It is expected that he will go ahead with a new criminal inquiry.

Such a decision would pose problems for the CIA.

It would also have political ramifications given President Obama's desire to leave questions over the Bush administration's interrogation practices in the past, correspondents say.

Harsh methods

The department of justice's call came as the CIA inspector general prepared to unveil a fuller version of a key report on the handling of terror suspects.

A heavily censored version of the 2004 internal report was released last year, but in an almost meaningless form because so much remained classified, the BBC's Daniel Sandford reports from Washington.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama has approved a new unit to question terrorism suspects

A federal judge ordered more details to be released on Monday, after a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (Aclu).

According to US media, the report by the inspector general details how a gun and an electric drill were brought into an interrogation session of suspected USS Cole bomber and alleged al-Qaeda commander Rahim al-Nashiri, in a bid to frighten him.

In another case, a gun was fired in another room to lead a detainee to think another suspect had been killed.

The US has banned harsh interrogation methods, including death threats.

Even under the Bush administration's controversial interpretation of the law, causing "severe mental pain" by the "threat of imminent death" was considered illegal.

Meanwhile, senior officials told US media on Monday that the new unit to question key terrorism suspects had been approved by President Obama.

It will be called the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.

It is to be composed of experts from several intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The group will be housed at the FBI but will be overseen by the national Security Council, giving the White House direct oversight, the Washington Post reported.

A US intelligence official told Associated Press news agency the CIA welcomed the move as it did not want involvement in long-term detentions.



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