When news broke
that the CIA had kept videotapes showing torture of detainees secret and then secretly destroyed them, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) was fast out of the gate: the scandal "leads right into the White House," he said, and the need for a special prosecutor was clear.
But that was about it. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) was quick
to dismiss the need for one, saying that Congressional inquiries were enough. And the hard-charging
investigation led by the House intelligence committee seemed to indicate that might be true. When Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a member of the House intelligence committee, wrote
Attorney General Michael Mukasey to formally request the appointment of a special prosecutor, expectations were low.
As expected, Mukasey said no. Or as he put it in a letter
to Congress Friday, "I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that Department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner."
But with the Department rebuffing
Congressional inquiries, Rockefeller's rationale has been turned on its head. The momentum seems to have shifted.
On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement that Mukasey's "disturbing" refusal to answer Congressional questions about the tapes' destruction "calls into question whether the Department of Justice is best able to investigate these matters.â
And the same day, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) echoed
Sen. Biden's comments from the week before.
Put all that together and you now have the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and two prominent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee leaning towards a special prosecutor. Whether that momentum builds any more depends largely on how successful the House intelligence committee is in defying
the Justice Department's attempt to stifle its investigation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said
that he would call for a special prosecutor if the committee's don't get cooperation.