Rumsfeld Knew His Guys Were Torturing People to Death, Which Is a Serious Crime

During the Bush years Americans the boogeyman used to keep Americans cowed was the real or imagined threat of imminent terrorist attack.

Now we have a new president – and we have  a new boogeyman – the economic meltdown. .

Now don't get me wrong. Anyone who's read this column over the  past few years knows I've been Chicken Littling about the financial house of cards for a long time.  And, now that it's finally collapsed, it's even worse than I predicted, and getting worse by the day.

Which is why Obama and his team are on the tube night and day talking about nothing else -- as if Americans are concerned about nothing, which isn't true.

71% of Americans are in favor of an investigation into the possible misuse of the Department of Justice by the Bush administration according to a Gallup poll released yesterday. (Full Story)

That's a pretty startling number, even for those of us who've been arguing for investigations for some time now. After all, Obama didn't get 71% of the vote, which means that a lot of folks who voted for McCain also want equal justice applied equally.

One reason for this surprisingly robust groundswell for investigations may be that each day, formerly secret Bush-era documents surface that truly shock the conscience.

Just yesterday the ACLU got it's hands on a truly smoking gun memo written for then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. This document informed Rumsfeld that those he'd tasked with beating  information out of suspected terrorists had not just tortured them, but tortured some of them, to death. In other words, they murdered them.

No, I'm not kidding. Here read the original document yourself.

If Rumsfeld had been, say, some local police captain in charge of these guys, this document would make him – at very least – accessory-after-the-fact to murder. He not only conspired to keep this evidence secret, but did not report this as the crime it is, nor order the perpetrators arrested, charged and put on trial.

There's a legal name for this crime: “Misprison of a Felony.”Defined here as:
“The failure to perform a public duty...Misprision is a versatile word that can denote a number of offenses. It can refer to the improper performance of an official duty...The most familiar and popular use of the term misprision describes the failure to report a crime....The first Congress passed a misprision of felony statute in 1789. The statute holds, "Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony … conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States" is guilty of misprision of felony and can be punished with up to three years in prison.

Under the federal statute, the prosecution must prove the following elements to obtain a misprision of felony conviction:

(1)another person actually committed a felony;
(2)the defendant knew that the felony was committed;
(3)the defendant did not notify any law enforcement or judicial officer; and
(4)the defendant took affirmative steps to conceal the felony.”

As for Rumsfeld, this document,  the crimes it describes,  and the available evidence indicate that, were he charged for misprison of a felony, he would be found; guilty on each count.

(An aside: Chances are very good that other high-placed officials in the Bush administration saw this document as well. A prosecutor and grand jury can find out just who else's chestnuts are in this particular fire.)

I am completely sympathetic to the extraordinary economic burden Obama and his team shouldered on January 21. But during the campaign it was Obama himself who posited the notion that a president had to be capable of do “more than one important thing at a time.”

The economic meltdown – likely the worst since the Great Depression – demands immediate and intense attention. But the economy is not the only thing that melted down during the Bush years. Core American values melted down as well, and require equally urgent attention from this new administration.

Because America's strength and moral authority in the world don't flow solely from a robust US economy, but also by an unswerving adherence to a unique and lofty set of moral values. Both the economy and our moral authority need urgent and immediate repair. Obama needs to work night and day to return health and stability to our economy. He also needs to work night and day to restore our moral authority. And that can only be accomplished by holding those who so despoiled our national soul accountable for their (well-documented) crimes.

But so far I've not seen a glimmer that Obama or his Attorney General, Eric Holder, have the stomach for real investigations that could lead to real crimes and real prosecutions. For example, even though Obama has repeatedly promised to lift the many lids of secrecy the Bush administration slammed down on the public's right to know, he hasn't. It's currently just as hard to get information and documents about the Bush years out of the Obama administration as it was to get the same out of the Bush folks themselves. -- For the second time this week, the Obama administration has gone to court in San Francisco to argue for secrecy in defending a terrorism policy crafted under George W. Bush - in this case, wiretapping that President Obama denounced as a candidate. (Full Story)

They need to be told to keep their promise and loosen up, to release the kind of hard evidence we need to fully know what crimes were committed, by whom, where, when and how many.

To help get this message through to them please sign this petition.

The must. Who says so? Just 71% of the people they represent. That's who.

One more thing. Now that the Obama folks have those documents, they also have constructive knowledge of felonies committed. Which means if they don't investigate and prosecute, they may be the next ones found guilty of misprision of a felony. Ya know?

(For more Bush administration documents see the Document Drawer at --

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