Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movement on Torture Investigations

Glenn Greenwald:

Attorney General Eric Holder today confirmed what has been suspected for many weeks: he has ordered what he calls "a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations." Holder's decision does not amount to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, since a preliminary review is used, as he emphasized, "to gather information to determine whether there is sufficient predication to warrant a full investigation of a matter." More important, the scope of the "review" is limited at the outset to those who failed to "act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance" -- meaning only those interrogators and other officials who exceeded the torture limits which John Yoo and Jay Bybee approved. Those who, with good faith, tortured within the limits of the OLC memos will "be protected from legal jeopardy" (the full Holder statement is here).

In theory, Holder's announcement does not foreclose the possibility that DOJ lawyers who authored the torture memos and/or those in the White House who authorized torture will, at some point, be investigated. Strictly speaking, Holder's announced "review" concerns only those in the intelligence community who conducted interrogations. And by extending immunity only to those who both (a) acted "within the scope of the [OLC] legal guidelines" and (b) "acted in good faith," it's theoretically possible that there is some class of persons who could fall outside the scope of immunity even though they technically complied with the OLC memos: i.e. high-level White House officials and/or DOJ lawyers who had reason to believe that the conduct authorized by the memos was illegal, meaning those who wrote or requested those memos with the deliberate intent to obtain cover for what they knew was criminal behavior. In other words, there are those who complied with the memos, but in bad faith, and are thus are outside the bounds of immunity Holder today defined and ineligible for this immunity. But that's just theory.

This seems good if it's a first step towards something more. While Greenwald is rightfully sceptical on what this means in the long run, there's always the hope that the outrage generated by these revelations (as well as by the report released yesterday) will lead to prosecutions of the real villains who wrote these memos.

No clue where this leads, but it seems like any movement on the issue is better than none.

No comments:

Post a Comment