The Philadelphia Inquirer editorializes in favor of a criminal investigation of CIA-Bush Administration torture:
But Was It a Crime?
Even after ruling against charging the CIA officers who destroyed videos of the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects, a special prosecutor should still answer the critical question of whether crimes were depicted on the tapes. The long-delayed decision to forgo prosecuting anyone over the tapes’ destruction was disappointing, but at least it’s a hopeful sign that Justice Department officials say the investigation continues into whether agents resorted to illegal torture.
This is a case where the possible crimes are far more important than any cover-up.
The tactics reportedly depicted on the tapes included waterboarding, which simulates drowning, along with a host of other harsh interrogation methods used on detainees in secret CIA prisons overseas.
Conducted during the Bush administration with the approval of Justice Department lawyers, the program of harsh interrogations was curtailed by then-President George W. Bush. President Obama banned torture tactics upon taking office.
As the CIA’s chief operative involved in destroying the tapes, then-clandestine services director Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. certainly conveyed the impression that the tactics on the videotapes were deeply troubling. They “would make us look terrible,” Rodriguez said in an e-mail released by federal officials in response to a filing by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Indeed, what’s already known about CIA interrogations is enough to turn anyone’s stomach: 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, waterboarded 183 times; accused terrorist Abu Zubaydah, 83 times.
Other tactics, including slamming suspects’ heads into walls, stripping prisoners, and keeping them awake for hours, were also sanctioned at the highest levels – even by Bush himself, the former president admits in his new memoir, Decision Points.
Until now, the official government version has been that the tactics never exceeded the guidelines set down by Justice Department and White House lawyers.
But Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expanded the purview of special prosecutor John Durham to include whether agents illegally tortured detainees.
Deciding that issue remains vital to restoring U.S. prestige as a nation that – no matter how much its safety is threatened – will always live by the rule of law.
November 15th, 2010