The Justice Department revealed Friday that its internal ethics office was investigating the department’s legal approval for waterboarding of Qaeda suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency and was likely to make public an unclassified version of its report.
The disclosure by H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, was the first official acknowledgment of an internal review of the legal memorandums the department has issued since 2002 that authorized waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods.
Mr. Jarrett’s report could become the first public accounting for legal advice that endorsed methods widely denounced as torture by human rights groups and legal authorities. His office can refer matters for criminal prosecution; legal experts said the most likely outcome was a public critique of the legal opinions on interrogation, noting that Mr. Jarrett had the power to reprimand or to seek the disbarment of current or former Justice Department lawyers.
The cloak of secrecy that long concealed the C.I.A.’s secret interrogation program and its legal underpinnings has gradually broken down.