That was a gutsy decision by President Barack Obama to release detailed Justice Department memos authorizing brutal interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency while at the same time announcing he would not prosecute the agency’s operatives who carried them out.
It was a decision of biblical proportions comparable to the one made by King Solomon. Metaphorically, he cut the baby in half.
By releasing the classified memos, Obama appeased the piranhas looking for blood.
By assuring the CIA he would not prosecute the operatives for carrying out orders, he appeased the intelligence community. At least a little.
We are led to believe the constitutionally-challenged Justice Department lawyers who wrote the memos during the Bush administration will not go their merry way. They already are under investigation by Justice for what the common folks would call malpractice and could lose their right to practice law, including one who since has been appointed a federal court judge for life. Whether these lawyers should be prosecuted for war crimes probably may be kicked back for Obama’s decision. He may not be able to punt on that one.
The left and right have spoken on this issue ad nausea. No sense in detailing who said what for we all know from where they are coming.
Obama made the right decision.
Harsh interrogation techniques and torture by the U.S. has resulted in a valuable recruitment tool for those who want to destroy us, primarily al-quada. Nor have these techniques proven ability to produce truth from the prisoners.
Having said that, we need to stop and take a deep breath. We have set ourselves up as a nation on the gold standard of virtues. It is absolute fallacy to believe we are the only nation stooping to torture as a means of interrogation and punishment. Even if we were, it is also fallacy to think a U.S. citizen would be treated in the same way if held prisoner in Mexico, Egypt, Syria or the al-quada in Pakistan. I’ll take the word of the best-known POW in our time, John McCain: Torture doesn’t work.
Prosecuting the CIA operatives who did follow the Justice Department authorizing memos passes the stink test, in my opinion. They relied on the lawyers to provide the guidelines. To learn five to eight years after the fact the lawyers had their brains screwed too tight, is no reason for 40 lashes.
I’m not buying the post-WWII trial precedents in Germany and Japan that “following orders” is not a defense. The lawyers, not the CIA grunts, are the ones who should be prosecuted. We’ve already seen the folly of prosecuting the Abu Ghraib prison underlings while Pentagon officials avoided the scandal.
Besides, Obama is no fool. His decision is the price he must pay for appeasing the intelligence community. Just ask former CIA Director Porter Goss when one crosses the spooks.
Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that the memos were written at a time when CIA officers were frantically working to prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Those methods, read on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009, appear graphic and disturbing,” said Blair in a written statement. “But we will absolutely defend those who relied on these memos.”
Obama, ever the pragmatist, prefers looking ahead as well as acknowledging the sins of the past.
Prosecuting CIA operatives would destroy the company for no reason other than extracting a pound of flesh.
Prosecuting the lawyers is a different ballgame. It would lead directly to the White House under its former occupants. That’s what Obama is attempting to avoid. Never forget he is a member of the presidential brotherhood and they stick together through thick and thin.
Cross posted on The Remmers Report
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.