Monday, August 24, 2009

Eric Holder: the more things change . . .

As is often the case, it looks as if Glenn Greenwald has it nailed. Obama AG Eric Holder is appointing a special prosecutor to look into interrogation excesses by the CIA, but the initial impression is that this will be another Abu Ghraib. They'll nail a few lower-level interrogators and leave upper-level officials who argued for torture, pleaded for torture, justified torture in legal briefs that read like what a Mafia lawyer would prepare for a Don who wanted to stay out of jail while committing endless crimes.

The most troubling thing about Holder's approach is that it seems to accept the "torture memos" done by the DOJ -- John Yoo, Jay Bybee, et. al. -- as the new standard for what is or isn't torture. CIA interrogators who stayed within the latitudinarian lines will apparently be protected from prosecution if they believed the DOJ memos defined what was legal and stayed within their guidelines. Only those who went beyond -- there are stories of threatening the death of a family, threatening with a gun and power drill, watching one's mother being raped -- would seem to face prosecution.

But the memos are outrageous, authorizing techniques that are clearly beyond the pale, some clearly torture -- and all ineffective. You know if there had been real attacks thwarted or bad guys captured through "enhanced interrogation," the stories would have been leaked aggressively. But none of the tales told by torture advocates have held up.

Theoretically, of course, a special prosecutor could go after the lawyers who wrote the memos justifying torture with tortured reasoning, or even Cheney or Bush. But one doubts it. Higher-ups are immune, a few lower-echelon folks get nailed to create the illusion of accuntability.

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