Monday, April 20, 2009

Possibility of special prosecutor on torture memos

Video report from Rachel Maddow's show tonight, on the news that Attorney General Eric Holder is considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the released torture memos. Here's Newsweek:
But the Obama administration is not off the hook. Though administration officials declared that CIA interrogators who followed Justice's legal guidance on torture would not be prosecuted, that does not mean the inquiries are over. Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries--and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place. Some Justice officials are deeply troubled by reports of detainee treatment and believe they may suggest criminal misconduct, these sources say. Even if prosecutions prove too difficult to bring, an outside counsel's report could be made public. For his part, Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is still pushing for a "truth commission." In a democracy, the wheels of justice grind on--and the president, for good reason under the rule of law, does not have the power to stop them.
Even if Holder were to hold off (pardon the pun), in addition to Leahy's efforts, there's the news that Dianne Feinstein is asking for time for congressional investigations, something to note as well.
But the White House came under new pressure Monday to leave open the possibility of prosecutions.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, asked Obama in a letter that pledges of immunity "be held in reserve" until her committee had completed an investigation.

The panel is expected to review thousands of classified CIA cables and other materials describing the interrogations of self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others. Feinstein said the review would take eight months.
Eight months. If the Democrats in congress assert themselves via investigations and take the time to do so, the evidence may build, in addition to public opinion that may lead to choices that will be difficult to ignore. All underscoring why the return of an independent Justice Department is so important.

Update (Tuesday a.m.): And for the umpteenth time, amidst all this publicity over these torture memos, a renewed call for the repatriation of Omar Khadr is given even more rationale by their release.