Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that he will probably follow the recommendation of officials in the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the systematic use of torture by the Bush Administration. In response, nine Republican U.S. senators sent a letter to holder warning that he must not begin such an investigation.
Why would the Republicans demand the investigation be blocked? Lack of evidence? No, there’s plenty of evidence.
The senators explained, “There is little doubt that further investigations and potential prosecutions of CIA officials will chill future intelligence activities. The intelligence community will be left to wonder whether actions taken today in the interest of national security will be subject to legal recriminations when the political winds shift. Indeed, there is a substantial risk that the mere prospect of criminal liability for terrorist interrogations is already impeding our intelligence efforts, as demonstrated from the fact that CIA officials increasingly feel compelled to obtain legal defense insurance.”
These senators are warning that CIA interrogators will think twice about the interrogation techniques they use if their criminal use of torture is investigated. What makes them think that’s a bad thing?
Documents recently released reveal that CIA interrogators routinely broke American law, waterboarding, using guns and power drills, slamming prisoners’ heads against walls, and even threatening to kill prisoners’ children. All this, the documents revealed, failed to provide any information that gave extra protection to the American people. It was brutality for the sake of brutality.
So, will investigations of criminally brutal interrogation techniques used by the CIA lead officials in the agency to think twice before they start to break the law? I hope so. CIA interrogators have no reason to get legal defense insurance unless they are engaging in torture and other illegal forms of extreme interrogation.
The Republican senators who wrote to Eric Holder suggest that CIA interrogators ought to be able to engage in torture and other forms of brutality, breaking the law, without worrying about being held accountable. They propose that the CIA be allowed to operate as a criminal organization that no one has the power to restrain.
I welcome any legal investigation that can help to “chill” this agenda.
The nine senators that signed this letter are: