WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths of two people in U.S. custody overseas during interrogations, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The investigation is the result of a review of CIA interrogations.
The Justice Department has been conducting a a probe of CIA terrorist interrogation practices . The attorney general says that he has accepted the recommendation of a federal prosecutor, John Durham, who has been conducting a long-running inquiry into CIA interrogation practices during the Bush administration.
"The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do," Holder said.
Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta welcomed the news "that the broader inquiries are behind us."
He also said he hopes this will bring about an end of a chapter in the nation's history.
"We are now finally about to close this chapter of our agency's history. As director, I have always believed that our primary responsibility is not to the past, but to the present and future threats to the nation," Panetta said in a statement.
The investigation comes at a time of transtion for the CIA. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Gen. David Petraeus as its new director.
Holder's statement gave no details about when or where the detainees were held. But under the Bush administration the agency came under fire for an interrogation technique known as 'waterboarding' which some rights groups called a form of torture.