Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed a special prosecutor
to look into CIA interrogations. With yesterday's release
of the CIA Inspector General's report on uses of interrogation, the
prosecutor has plenty of source material. But who will he target? CIA
officers, their bosses, Bush administration lawyers, or someone even
higher up? More importantly, who should he target?
CIA Officers? Echoing Dick Cheney's statement from last night, conservative opinion leaders are maintaining their position that investigating the CIA would inhibit officer's ability to their jobs. Bill O'Reilly warned of a "witch hunt." The National Review's Seith Leibsohn, worried about the affect on national security, wrote, "We truly have forgotten 9/11." Powerline's Paul Mirengoff wrote a three-part series called "A Good Time to be a Jihadist."
Greg Sargent wrote that "only the conduct of low-level alleged rogue
torturers" would be examined. "This is only about the interrogators,"
he wrote. "Nothing here at all about
examining why some techniques were deemed legal, and no look at why
Bush lawyers subsequently gave these alleged rogue interrogators a
Administration/Justice Dept. Officials? The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder was skeptical that CIA officers would be
prosecuted. "Legal experts believe that it will
be very difficult to make a case against CIA officers unless there is
incontrovertible proof that they knowingly broke the law, and if that
proof can be introduced in court because of the sensitive (but legal)
national security practices that might also be disclosed," he wrote.
"The CIA operatives who face potential prosecution did not design the
program in question."
New Yorker's Jane Mayer said on Keith Olbermann's show that CIA agents would point prosecutors to the Department of Justice. "If
they actually bring charges against anybody at the CIA who was at the
bottom of the food chain, the first thing that person is going to do is
say, 'I was authorized. Let me tell you what my orders were,'" she said.
- Bush and Cheney? Despite
long-held cries on the left for prosecuting the former president and vice president, no one really seems to consider that a possibility. As The
Washington Post's Eugene Robinson summed up, "I'm under no illusion that George W. Bush or Dick Cheney
is actually going to be prosecuted by the Justice Department," he wrote. "It's
probable that painful scrutiny and lasting disgrace will be the only
sanctions that Bush and Cheney ever face. But history demands at least that much."
- Prosecution Shouldn't Target CIA Leaders The
Wall Street Journal's staff editorial warned that the prosecutor would
look into "everyone up and down the CIA chain of command, starting with
merely followed the legal opinions, and going all the way to senior CIA
officials such as former Director George Tenet and other Bush
Administration officials." The editorial argued this would "demoralize
a CIA that has already been stigmatized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
and other Democrats" and be unpopular with Americans.
- Prosecution Should Aim Higher Salon's Glenn
Greenwald agreed that low-level interrogators were the likely target,
but theorized that higher-ups acting in "bad faith" could be prosecuted
as well. "It's theoretically possible that there is some class of
persons who could fall outside the scope of immunity even though they
technically complied with the OLC memos," he wrote. "I.E.,
high-level White House officials and/or DOJ lawyers who had reason to
believe that the conduct authorized by the memos was illegal, meaning
those who wrote or requested those memos with the deliberate intent to
obtain cover for what they knew was criminal behavior"
Robert Baer, a Time columnist and former CIA officer, told Chris
Matthews that prosecutions should go higher. "This went right up the
chain to the director of operations, to the director
himself. They cannot claim they didn`t know what was going on. No CIA
officer that I've ever worked with would willingly and gladly do this
directions," he said. "There should be accountability at the top. No
question about it."
Publius doubted anyone higher than interrogator would be prosecuted, but
said that could be a step towards later, higher prosecutions. "A few
successful prosecutions could hopefully be leveraged to go after
bigger fish -- the ones actually responsible for implementing torture
as national policy," he wrote.
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