One Step Closer to Torture Prosecutions?
Attorney General Eric Holder has been teasing us for awhile with tantalizing hints he may actually investigate Bush-era torture cases, and now it looks like we're possibly one step closer, as the Justice Department's ethics office (which I believe was either dormant or on paid vacation during the Bush administration) has recommended investigations.
The Justice Department's ethics office has recommended reversing the Bush administration and reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, potentially exposing Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors to prosecution for brutal treatment of terrorism suspects, according to a person officially briefed on the matter.
The recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility, presented to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in recent weeks, comes as the Justice Department is about to disclose on Monday voluminous details on prisoner abuse that were gathered in 2004 by the C.I.A.'s inspector general but have never been released.
When the C.I.A. first referred its inspector general's findings to prosecutors, they decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But Mr. Holder's associates say that when he took office and saw the allegations, which included the deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he began to reconsider.
With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A. It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.
The advice from the Office of Professional Responsibility strengthens Mr. Holder's hand.
It's difficult to think of something that could more pointedly underline 1) how deeply on the wrong track this country is; and 2) how irreparably broken Obama's campaign promise of new politics is; that our Attorney General even needs his hand strengthened on the subject of wanting to prosecute torturers.
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