U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday asked a respected prosecutor to investigate whether CIA interrogators violated the law in subjecting suspected terrorists to enhanced interrogation techniques. The wisdom of his action was vindicated by the release of a redacted 2004 report documenting cruelties both familiar (such as waterboarding) and newly confirmed (threatening a prisoner with a gun and power drill). Citizens who thought they were inured to barbarism inflicted in their name will be shocked by the document.
The report, by the CIA's inspector general, concludes that some interrogators exceeded even the minimal limits imposed by Bush administration lawyers. It's important to determine whether the interrogators also violated laws against torture. Still, as Holder emphasized, the scope of the inquiry is limited. It's a preliminary review that might not produce a full-scale criminal investigation. It concerns only the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations, not interrogation policies in general. And it is not directed at anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of ... legal guidance.
Notably, the new inquiry will be conducted by career prosecutor John H. Durham, who already is investigating the destruction of videotapes of CIA interrogations. That's a valuable credential, but there is a political dimension to the choice as well. Durham was given his current assignment by former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, a George W. Bush appointee. That bow to bipartisanship is doubly important because Holder was an Obama campaign adviser and because he is revisiting a decision by the previous administration not to pursue a criminal inquiry.
Important as the new inquiry is, it won't remedy all of the injustices perpetrated as part of the Bush administration's so-called war on terror.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.