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Rights Group Calls on Obama to Investigate CIA Interrogation Program

FILE - The sun rises over the Guantanamo detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, May 13, 2009.

Human Rights Watch is calling on President Barack Obama to take action before he leaves office to hold accountable former U.S. officials for potential abuses committed as part of the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation program.

The U.S.-based rights group argued that newly declassified CIA documents give new evidence about alleged criminal misconduct.

"Failure to take concrete action to address these crimes will leave a stain" on Obama's legacy, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The group urged the president to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA's detention and interrogation program and to issue a formal U.S. apology to the victims of torture.

Earlier this week, the CIA released a group of 50 internal documents, totaling hundreds of pages, in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents show mixed opinions about the CIA's detention and interrogation program; some agency officials were convinced it provided "unique and invaluable intelligence," while others expressed deep reservations.

Many of the files are heavily redacted, with full pages and identifying information such as sender, recipients and dates blocked out.

Then-President George W. Bush authorized the CIA detention and interrogation program six days after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in order to capture and question al-Qaida militants and extract information that could prevent another attack.

After taking office in 2009, Obama ordered an inquiry into whether the CIA's program involved criminal conduct. The inquiry was closed in 2012 with then-Attorney General Eric Holder saying that not enough evidence existed for criminal prosecution.