Late last week, the Obama administration released certain Bush Justice Department memos that relate, in all their appalling detail, the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that CIA operatives could use to obtain information from terrorist suspects. In one word: torture.
The release of the memos, which apparently was the result of an impassioned debate within the White House, has caused a ruckus all over Washington. For the millions of Americans who have all along suspected that the Bush administration consisted of warped and amoral creatures lusting for power, these memos provide yet more legal and legitimate grounds for investigation and prosecution.
But only Sunday, two days ago, Rahm Emanuel threw cold water on the idea of prosecutions when he appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulous. And President Obama has been saying, consistently, that his inclination is to "look forward."
Now, Newsweek reports that Attorney General Eric Holder might have ideas of his own. Among the many interesting tidbits in reporters Michael Isikoff's and Evan Thomas' latest contribution, "The Lawyer and the Caterpillar," is this:
Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries--and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place. --Newsweek, April 18, 2009This is big.
Remember when Eric Holder was first nominated for the Attorney General post? Some Republican senators expressed concern about Holder's ability to be an independent Attorney General, and not just a "yes-man" for the Obama administration. Well, let it be known that Republican senators were given fair warning to be careful what they wished for.
It seems that Holder is, in fact, exercizing his independence in a big way. Unlike his lapdog predecessor, Michael Mukasey, who made a public statement recently, condemning the release of the torture memos, Holder doesn't seem to be making his decisions according to what he thinks the president wants. (Someone should remind Mukasey that he's no longer working for the Bush administration. He doesn't have to suck up to the boss anymore.) The important point to remember, which is mentioned in the Newsweek article, is that the president does not have the power to determine whether or not there is an investigation. The Attorney General can appoint a special prosecutor on his own.
Members of the former Bush administration are clearly rattled. Big Dick let Sean Hannity pitch him some softballs the other day so that he could once again perform his song-and-dance to try and paint any forthcoming prosecutions as witch hunts. Congress has started talking about impeaching a Bush appointee to the federal bench, Jay Bybee, who authored the memos. Senator Patrick Leahy is still pontificating about the need for a Truth Commission.
And, one has to wonder if President Obama is playing it cool by publicly expressing reluctance for investigation and prosecution, all the while encouraging Holder to move forward. That way, the president can preserve his image as a magnanimous, even-handed leader and still sate the bloodlust of the leftwing of his supporters. It would be a shrewd move and he's a politician, after all.
Hats off to the American Civil Liberties Union (of which I am a proud member) for suing to have the memos released under the Freedom of Information Act. Keep your eyes on this story, folks. There will be much more to come.