As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bobbing And Weaving

The White House has given so many conflicting statements on prosecutions for those who directed and authorized torture that it's clear they just don't want to be responsible for it. Between the past 48 hours, when Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs parroted the "looking forward, not backward" viewpoint, and today, something has changed. While Obama went to Langley and defended the release of the torture memos, at the same time his senior aides were telling the New York Times that legal sanctions may go forward, due to mounting public pressure both inside and outside the Beltway.

And while Mr. Obama vowed not to prosecute C.I.A. officers for acting on legal advice, on Monday aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques.

...human rights activists, Congressional Democrats and international officials pressed for a fuller accounting of what happened. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote Mr. Obama asking him not to rule out prosecutions until her panel completed an investigation over the next six to eight months.

Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department’s ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work. The ethics office has the power to recommend disbarment or other professional penalties or, less likely, to refer cases for criminal prosecution.

The administration has also not ruled out prosecuting anyone who exceeded the legal guidelines, and officials have discussed appointing a special prosecutor. One option might be giving the job to John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor who has spent 15 months investigating the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations.

You have Dianne Feinstein calling for leaving prosecutions open. There are both the DoJ Inspector General's report and a fuller report from the Senate Armed Services Committee set for release, to say nothing of additional secret torture memos that may come out at some point. You have MoveOn calling for investigations by a special prosecutor. All this pressure has forced the Administration into a corner. And this morning, you have Obama made a more definitive statement.

President Barack Obama is leaving the door to open to possible prosecution of Bush administration officials who devised harsh terrorism-era interrogation tactics.

He also said Tuesday that he worries about the impact of high-intensity hearings on how detainees were treated under former President George W. Bush. But Obama did say, nevertheless, he could support a Hill investigation if it were conducted in a bipartisan way.

Obama has said he doesn't support charging CIA agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, acting on advice from superiors that such practices were legal. But he also said that it is up to the attorney general whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving these tactics.

Read closely here. Obama said he could support an investigation emanating from Congress, and that the decision for prosecution is up to the Attorney General. In other words, shorter Obama: "Leave me out of this." Nobody need rely on his support.

And the President is correct. He doesn't get to decide who is and is not prosecuted in America. That's the responsibility of the Attorney General. And if he wants to take it out of politics, the Attorney General ought to appoint a special prosecutor, as MoveOn and others have called for.

As for the impeachment of Jay Bybee, I have noticed that not only Democratic stalwarts like Sheldon Whitehouse, but even those Villagers disinclined to prosecute, like Joke Line, are comfortable with supporting this measure. This could be the entryway into getting a taste of accountability in Washington. My petition to get the California Democratic Party to support a resolution of impeachment now has 3,903 signatures. Sign it if you can, and let's move forward on this front, getting the largest state Democratic Party in the country on the record to remove the torture judge from the federal bench.

UPDATE: Patrick Leahy:

"The fact is, the Bush administration and Mr. Bybee did not tell the truth. If the Bush administration and Mr. Bybee had told the truth, he never would have been confirmed," said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The decent and honorable thing for him to do would be to resign. And if he is a decent and honorable person, he will resign," he said deliberately.

Simple answers to simple statements: he's not decent and honorable.

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