Civil Liberties  
comments_image Comments

GOP Senators: U.S. Faces Terrorist Attack if Holder Probes Bush's Torture Program

In a craven attempt to keep CIA abuses under wraps, nine senators wrote to the attorney general warning him not to appoint a special prosecutor.
 
 
Share
 
 
 
 

Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona is one of nine senators who signed a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday urging him not to appoint a special counsel to investigate torture.

Nine Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Eric Holder on Wednesday saying the U.S. could face a terrorist attack if the attorney general appoints a special prosecutor to investigate the CIA's use of torture against "war on terror" suspects.

Holder is under pressure to resist launching a criminal probe, even one limited to rogue CIA interrogators. At the same time, he is facing mounting pressure from some prominent Democrats and civil liberties and human rights groups to not only sign off on a criminal investigation, but to expand it to include top Bush administration officials.

The latest correspondence came (last) Wednesday in a letter to the attorney general that said an investigation into the CIA's interrogation practices, no matter how limited in scope, would jeopardize the "security for all Americans, chill future intelligence activities," and could "leave us more vulnerable to attack."

The senators resorted to fear-mongering, invoking the terrorist attacks on 9/11 to try and dissuade Holder

"We are deeply concerned by recent news reports that you are 'poised to appoint a special prosecutor' to investigate CIA officials who interrogated al Qaeda terrorists. Such an investigation could have a number of serious consequences, not just for the honorable members of the intelligence community, but also for the security of all Americans," the letter said.

The letter was sent to Holder by Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was also signed by Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

"The 9/11 Commission emphasized that keeping our country safe from foreign attack requires that the Justice Department work cooperatively with the intelligence community, but the appointment of a special prosecutor would irresponsibly and unnecessarily drive a wedge between the two ...

"We will not know the lost opportunities to prevent attacks, the policies to protect the nation left on the table, due to fear of future policy disagreement being expressed through an indictment. It is hard to imagine how the Justice Department could take that risk after September 11, given that the foremost duty of the Department is to protect Americans."

The timing of the letter [coincided with the public release] of a 2004 CIA inspector general's report that called into question the legality of the Bush administration's interrogation program.

Heavily redacted portions of Helgerson's 200-page report were released to the ACLU in May 2008 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, but the ACLU appealed the Bush administration's extensive deletions and the Obama administration responded to that appeal with a promise to review the materials at issue and declassify, at the very least, portions of it to the civil liberties group.

The Justice Department has delayed turning over the report three times since then. Last month, a federal court judge gave the CIA until August 24 to declassify the report.

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, said on Wednesday she believes the CIA will turn over the report next week, but she did not know whether it would be redacted yet again when released.

The secret findings of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson led to eight criminal referrals to the Justice Department for homicide and other misconduct, but those cases languished as Vice President Dick Cheney is said to have intervened to constrain Helgerson's inquiries.