US Attorney General Eric Holder is mulling to launch an investigation into the alleged torture of 9/11 terror suspects and use of harsh interrogation methods against them by the CIA.
The probe, which would be a distraction from Obama's policy of "looking forward and not backwards" on the issue, is set to stir a partisan debate in the US administration.
Holder is leaning towards appointing a criminal prosecutor and his "decision could come within weeks, around the same time the Justice Department releases an ethics report about Bush lawyers who drafted memos supporting harsh interrogation practices," the 'Washington Post' reported quoting unnamed sources.
Earlier, the White House successfully resisted efforts by Congressional Democrats to set up a "truth and reconciliation" panel. But fresh disclosures continued to emerge about detainees' mistreatment, including a secret CIA watchdog report highlighting several episodes that could be likened to torture, the daily said.
The report, recently reviewed by Holder, describes how interrogators were allowed to subject detainees to simulated drowning, sleep deprivation, wall slamming and confinement in small, dark spaces.
However, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it would be unfair to prosecute officials who acted "in good faith based on legal guidance". "we have made no decisions on investigations or prosecutions, including whether to appoint a prosecutor to conduct further inquiry," Miller said.