The Justice Departmentís ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.
With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A. It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.
The advice from the Office of Professional Responsibility strengthens Mr. Holderís hand.
The recommendation to review the closed cases, in effect renewing the inquiries, centers mainly on allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Justice Department report is to be made public after classified information is deleted from it.
The cases do not center on allegations of abuse by C.I.A. officers who conducted the forceful interrogations of high-level Qaeda suspects at secret sites, although it is not out of the question that a new investigation would also examine their conduct.
That could mean a look at the case in which C.I.A. officers threatened one prisoner with a handgun and a power drill if he did not cooperate. The detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was suspected as the master plotter behind the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole.