The Bush administration’s Justice Department was properly and justifiably criticized for the infusion of politics in its hiring and firing decisions. A political litmus test was imposed for new hires and a number of U.S. Attorneys were fired for refusing to kowtow to pressures to indict for partisan purposes. Although possibly not as egregious, the decision to limit the torture investigation to low level interrogators “who failed to act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance” (which in itself may be illegal) seems also to suffer from political considerations.
No one can fault the President’s desire to look forward and deal with the myriad of problems that now face the country. Likewise the prospect of investigating and possibly indicting high ranking members of the former administration and rival party sets a dangerous precedent and risks charges of political motivation. The hesitancy to look at the top is understandable and a tough call for any attorney general. But the limits placed upon the prosecutor, Mr. Durham, appear to be driven by politics. What other reason can there be for so limiting the investigation other than fear of the political consequences?
There can be no question now that representatives of the United States engaged in torture. An investigation which closes it eyes to those who authored and authorized it demeans the justice system and the nation. Of course there will be political fallout. But the Republicans did not hesitate to impeach President Clinton for charges arising out of misconduct of a personal nature. Here we are speaking of potential war crimes—certainly more serious than lying about an affair with an intern.
Finally, the suggestion that even the charges against the persons who actually did the torturing should not be pursued because they will affect the morale of those who did not is ridiculous. We do not refrain from investigating and disciplining police officers guilty of excessive force merely because it will affect the morale of other officers. If anything such investigation and charges deters similar conduct. Concededly there will be consequences to pursuing this investigation, some of which may be negative, but that hardly seems to be a sufficient reason to limit its scope. It is difficult to predict what such an investigation will do to us as a nation if we pursue all of those responsible; or what it will say about us if we do not.