Reestablishing justice in this country, it is essential
Monday, August 24, 2009
President Barack Obama will be “violating the law” if his administration declines to investigate Bush officials for their role in torturing detainees, a prominent House Democrat said in a little noticed interview Friday.
The congressman, liberal New York Democrat and Judiciary Committee member Jerrold Nadler, made the comments in an interview with The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein published Friday. His comments come on the heels of a CIA report being released Monday that promises to offer more details into the abuse of prisoners under the Bush Administration’s watch — including the use of “mock executions” and threatening inmates with power drills.
Nadler’s comments also come as The New York Times is reporting that the Justice Department will recommend pursuing abuses cases in court.
“If they follow the law they have no choice,” Nadler told Stein, citing the US role as signatory to the United Nations convention against torture and an anti-torture act passed in 1996.
If the Obama administration doesn’t investigate, the administration “would be violating the law,” Nadler remarked. “They would be not upholding the law; they would be violating it.”
Nadler has recommended the appointment of a special prosecutor. Such an appointment now appears likely.
“With the release of the details on Monday and the formal advice that at least some cases be reopened, it now seems all but certain that the appointment of a prosecutor or other concrete steps will follow, posing significant new problems for the C.I.A,” the Times David Johnston penned Monday. “It is politically awkward, too, for Mr. Holder because President Obama has said that he would rather move forward than get bogged down in the issue at the expense of his own agenda.”
The administration “must appoint a special prosecutor,” Nadler said. “But, again, you have no choice because that’s the law.”
“[Holder] was strongly inclined to support a special prosecutor,” he said. “But not for the lawyers who wrote the memos justifying the torture, and not for anybody who acted within the scope of those memos; only for some local level guy who acted beyond the scope of those memos, who waterboarded with too much water or whatever.”
“You must not limit it that way,” he added. “Again it would be against the law to do it because you have got to investigate everybody involved in torture or in a conspiracy to order torture.”
The treatment of detainees — and in particular, the death of detainees at the hands of US forces — was referred to federal prosecutors after a review of the cases in 2004. But after a preliminary Justice Department investigation, the Bush administration declined to prosecute those involved.
“There has never been any public explanation of why the Justice Department decided not to bring charges in nearly two dozen abuse cases known to be referred to a team of federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., and in some instances not even the details of the cases have been made public,” Johnston wrote Monday.
“Former government lawyers said that while some detainees died and others suffered serious abuses, prosecutors decided they would be unlikely to prevail because of problems with mishandled evidence and, in some cases, the inability to locate witnesses or even those said to be the victims,” Johnston added.
Nadler told Stein that he expects any effort to go after CIA employees or contractors will be viewed by Republicans as politically motivated — but that it isn’t a reason to shutter prosecutions.
“If you start prosecuting the Bush people,” Nadler quipped, “you know what is going to be said? What’s going to be said is, this is politically motivated payback for the Clinton impeachment. That is what they are going to say… [But] from a point of view of reestablishing justice in this country, it is essential.”