Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


What if justice finally comes creeping around?
June 30, 2011 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Eric Holder has announced a full criminal investigation into the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody. The breaking story is also being reported by Talking Points Memo. This latest development comes as a result of a preliminary DOJ investigation into possible criminal acts stemming from the Bush torture policies that President Obama requested in August 2009, which was broadly criticized at the outset as not going far enough.
posted by saulgoodman (49 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sounds like just the kind of narrowly tailored investigation into actual wrongdoing that the DOJ ought to be investigating. It doesn't look like the witch-hunt against waterboarders or face-slappers that many on the right voiced concerns about in recent months. We're talking about murder, potentially.

This from a guy who has pretty strongly defended, in broad terms, the interrogation and detention policies of the Bush administration.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011


I, for one, criticized them for not going far enough in that they are not going after the people who set up the guidelines that allowed torture. They only appear to be going after people who acted outside even those loose guidelines.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I, for one, criticized them for not going far enough in that they are not going after the people who set up the guidelines that allowed torture. They only appear to be going after people who acted outside even those loose guidelines.

The guidelines, as far as I know, were not loose, but just morally and functionally wrong, that's all.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2011


Yes, in that they allowed torture.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's about time this damned wall started to crack. The prosecution of those who actually tortured people to death can only bode well, in so far as these things ever bode well, for the eventual prosecution of those responsible for this policy. Now let's see if Obama can refrain from squashing this because he wants to "look forward." As if there's any such thing other than a backward-looking criminal investigation outside of Minority Report. If only Obama were a lawyer or something...
posted by 1adam12 at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Given that triple-digits of detainees have died in custody, this might be more like Investigation Theatre than a real attempt to hold anyone accountable.

Call me cynical, but I'm expecting the DOJ to announce that 'prosecutor' William Welch, the DOJ's current go-to guy for scuttling cases (Ted Stevens, Thomas Drake), will be put in charge of this one.
posted by grounded at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Gay Marriage in NYS? Check.

Book of Mormon wins like 10 Tony awards ensuring it'll be with us forever? Check.

The bastards who chose to strap people to tables and torture them being brought to justice. IN PROGRESS.

Dayum. Q2 was GOOD!
posted by mikelieman at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well then, I look forward to seeing trials against Goldman Sachs around the time the universe suffers heat death.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:11 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


BobbyVan What, exactly, would be wrong with a broad arrest and prosecution of waterboarders? It's torture, it's a crime, they should be behind bars.
posted by sotonohito at 12:23 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, in that they allowed torture.

Most definitely.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:24 PM on June 30, 2011


I'll bet cash that they end up railroading a Lynndie England, when we already know the people at the top and giving the orders are the ones who should be in prison.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 PM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well if these suspects don't plea out or get pardoned, there's a huge chance that their defense attorneys will be putting the interrogation policy into the court record (if it's not sealed for bullshit reasons). This will at the very least give the ICC something to work with if anybody from the Bush administration responsible was unwise enough to set foot in the EU. Or do I have the wrong read on this? I've been too disgusted and morally outraged to follow a lot of it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2011


And the Republican candidates for president (currently consisting of what David Carr aptly described as a "tallest leprechaun competition") will now vie to outdo each other with how much crazy "Obama doesn't want to defend this country" they can wring out of this.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


On Thursday, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), praised Holder's decision.
Pinch me, but this appears to be a U.S. government acting as adults should. Well done.
"The Attorney General's decision is a significant step forward," Rogers said. "I am pleased that the Department of Justice has finally substantially lifted an undeserved cloud of doubt and suspicion from all of our intelligence professionals."
Ah. I see, this is the lamb to the slaughter that the GOP is allowing; there is to be no feast.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 12:36 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


"The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted."

2 out 101 ain't bad.
posted by Trurl at 12:42 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given that triple-digits of detainees have died in custody, this might be more like Investigation Theatre than a real attempt to hold anyone accountable.

It's far more than President McCain or President H. Clinton would have done.

Besides, given the failures of the justice system we read about almost daily here at Metafilter, we know that the biggest determination of jail time isn't guilt or innocence, it's class and wealth.

Any torture investigation is going to run into a lot of CYA and a staunch defense. It sucks, but it has ever been so.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:44 PM on June 30, 2011


BrotherCaine, this would only help nudge the ICC in the direction of finding the USA "unwilling or unable" to deal with those implicated in international crimes. The jurisdictional bases for the ICC to deal with these cases have always been pretty clear, it's just that no one seems to have an appetite for indicting former US government officials.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:46 PM on June 30, 2011


BobbyVan: "witch-hunt against waterboarders"

Are you fucking kidding me? We executed Japanese soldiers for war crimes, for waterboarding in WWII. Waterboarding IS torture. It is NOT EVEN REMOTELY effective for extracting useful information (torture, in all its forms, is not effective to this goal) but is merely punitive. It is against every known code of humane treatment, and it's, literally, inhumane. It should be beneath the US.
posted by notsnot at 12:51 PM on June 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


it's just that no one seems to have an appetite for indicting former US government officials.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm starving, and I'd be happy to offer any help needed in cooking this particular dish.
posted by quin at 12:55 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


"witch-hunt against waterboarders"

Heaven forbid someone punishes the bullies.
posted by eoden at 12:55 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's far more than President McCain or President H. Clinton would have done.

Sorry, no. Not good enough. It may be more, but it's not nearly goddamn enough.
posted by EarBucket at 1:09 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


"See you left-wing civil rights zealots, we DID prosecute torture! Now you have nothing left to complain about, Yes We Did! Obama 2012!"
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


"See you left-wing civil rights zealots, we DID prosecute torture! Now you have nothing left to complain about, Yes We Did! Obama 2012!"


You know, I think you're right on the money. This smacks of a cynical 'get off my back elections are coming up in a year' move.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:18 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


it's just that no one seems to have an appetite for indicting former US government officials.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm starving, and I'd be happy to offer any help needed in cooking this particular dish.


My, my, I haven't had some indicted US official in a loooong time, and I'd be mighty pleased to have some on my plate again. Let me share this recipe that I used to use:

Ingredients:
1 part US government official, slightly retired, but not too far gone, marinated liberally in blatant civil rights abuses.
2 parts popular anger, simmering on a low burner (Liberal Elite anger will do, but the dish is more savory if you use the working-class variety)
1 judge (must be wild-caught; corporate-farm varieties will wilt and spoil long before the dish is done)
20 parts jury - best kept sealed until cooking lest they go bad

Directions:
Peel off and discard any underlings still sticking to the official who might take the fall for him, as they will prevent the flavor of justice to fully permeate the official. Mix ingredients together vigorously and set to boil on the stove. Optionally, drop one prosecutorial spine into the pot to give the dish's flavor some staying power.

Remove from the stove when official is good and done for.

Serve hot.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


It doesn't look like the witch-hunt against waterboarders or face-slappers that many on the right voiced concerns about in recent months.

The right were voicing concerns in recent months because they were guilty of wrongdoing and did not want to be held to account for their misdeeds and/or don't want to be held morally culpable for the defenses they made of torture back in the mid-00s because of the social obligation they felt to defend the Bush administration rather than admit error, combined with a general moral blindness/moral psychosis that affected a lot of conservatives at that time.

For the most part, the reason it's staying so limited is the same reason there have been few prosecutions for corruption in the financial crisis-- the corruption was so pervasive and had infected so many parts of the system, that since so many people participated, it seems unfair to blame anyone individually. This is similar to how we couldn't simply jail/hang/dispossess the confederate politicians after the civil war and ostracize the defenders of segregation who fought against the civil rights activists-- there were simply so many of them that we seem to have chosen to pretend that it all never happened. While I might be comfortable banning all the defenders of waterboarding from my home, few politicians, reporters, and other members of the government would be willing to do so.
posted by deanc at 1:55 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really wanted to be hopeful about this but:
"Mr. Durham has advised me of the results of his investigation, and I have accepted his recommendation to conduct a full criminal investigation regarding the death in custody of two individuals," Holder said.

"Those investigations are ongoing," he said. "The Department has determined that an expanded criminal investigation of the remaining matters is not warranted."
I'm reading this to mean that this is an isolated "further" investigation of two incidents, and that everything else will no longer be investigated hence:
"The Attorney General's decision is a significant step forward," Rogers said. "I am pleased that the Department of Justice has finally substantially lifted an undeserved cloud of doubt and suspicion from all of our intelligence professionals."
And it's clear that this is well within the scope of the policy announced in the beginning:
Holder made clear when he first announced the decision to open a preliminary investigation and in his latest statement that the Justice Department "would not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees."

He said the review "examined primarily whether any unauthorized interrogation techniques were used by CIA interrogators, and if so, whether such techniques could constitute violations of the torture statute or any other applicable statute."
I have to say I feel a little for the CIA guys who are in the bull's eye here. I mean when the OLC is authorizing techniques which have always been recognized as torture i.e. waterboarding, everyone knows this, these guys are facing prosecution, not for torture, but for not following the torture manual.... this doesn't make me feel any better and we now seem to have enshrined by precedent that, as long as whatever you do is following orders, you won't be prosecuted.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:56 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


...we now seem to have enshrined by precedent that, as long as whatever you do is following orders, you won't be prosecuted.

Huh. Where have I heard this before, again...?

(nope, I ain't gonna be Godwinned, huh-uh, noooo)
posted by likeso at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2011


The most disturbing thing about torture, to me, is that --as I travel through more and more of the country-- close to half the country is perfectly happy with it. Loves it. Thinks we're getting a little soft for all of this pansy worrying about foreigners and stuff. Thinks this softness is gonna cost us in the long run. Thinks it's a tough row to hoe for those poor torturers who have to listen to the screams and get their hands dirty and whatnot but -hey- a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. And a man's gotta torture. How else you keep them crazies in line?

Serious.
posted by umberto at 2:18 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


these guys are facing prosecution, not for torture, but for not following the torture manual....

That, and the deaths of the people in custody. The officially approved torture wasn't supposed to result in death or the permanent impairment of any part of the victim's body--that was the argument for it not being torture, after all. Just following orders, even in good faith, shouldn't be a defense to torture, but I think it's perfectly fair to condemn disregarding even the thin protections those orders provided victims even more strongly.
posted by Marty Marx at 2:21 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


umberto Various polls show that around 50% of Americans support torture.
posted by sotonohito at 2:26 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slackermagee wrote: You know, I think you're right on the money. This smacks of a cynical 'get off my back elections are coming up in a year' move

Wow..just..wow.

sotonohito wrote: umberto Various polls show that around 50% of Americans support torture

Also wow..just..wow.
posted by wierdo at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2011


Yeah, well... Around 50% of them are below average, too...
posted by mikelieman at 3:12 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


surely ... this?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:23 PM on June 30, 2011


How can one acknowledge how stupifyingly hard it is to prosecute the wealthy and powerful (just convicting one ex-football player with a lot of money is hard enough) and then write it off as an election stunt or complain that it hasn't been done earlier?

Don't parrot a party line or personality, but if you like a policy direction, fucking hell, support the policy direction.

Various polls show that around 50% of Americans support torture

I wonder how many people have read the Geneva Conventions. Or, better, have ever been in a situation where it would be remotely applicable to them.
I don't think one has to serve (or have loved ones serve) in the armed forces or law enforcement or government service at all to have an opinion on war, but it certainly helps gain some practical perspective when you actually might have a personal stake in it. The overwhelming majority of service is not in combat or field situations. You can be a desk jockey, go work for the state department and someone busts into the consulate and puts a gun to your head. Well, the U.S. doesn't make policy concessions (it's all there in the manual) so how do you feel about "no negotiating with terrorists" now Captain Hard-ass? (congratulations to former Lt. Hard-ass on his promotion)

As it is, how many people get their ass off the couch to change the channel much less serve their community in some way? So yeah "F'it, torture 'em." Really? Going to do that yourself are you? "Yeah, I totally would." So you're going to work hard for less money than someone in the private sector (especially contractors) and sacrifice your time and put yourself in a position to make that call when you're in harm's way then. "Uh.... " Uh huh. Enjoy those Pringles junior.

I've read the Red Cross IHL study (which says 59% of younger Americans) et.al. 4 of 5 Americans polled there thought young people should be better educated on the Geneva Conventions before they could vote or serve in the military.

So maybe it's in how the question is asked. And there's probably an immediate emotional reaction that's at variance with sober reflection and, most certainly, a reality check.

Good quote though from that last link tho regardless of the numbers: "If we don’t want to want our kids to grow up thinking torture is as American as apple pie, we must redouble our efforts to press for justice."

There aren't too many black and white areas in life, so when you see one it's good to hit it hard with everything you've got.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


if you like a policy direction, fucking hell, support the policy direction

You and I will probably disagree on the kind of policy this represents.
posted by Trurl at 7:01 PM on June 30, 2011


Our spies don't leave a lot of evidence around that can be used for an effective criminal prosecution in front of a jury.
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on June 30, 2011


This is how one of the darkest chapters in U.S. counterterrorism ends: with practically every instance of suspected CIA torture dodging criminal scrutiny. It’s one of the greatest gifts the Justice Department could have given the CIA as David Petraeus takes over the agency.
posted by homunculus at 7:58 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


How can one acknowledge how stupifyingly hard it is to prosecute the wealthy and powerful (just convicting one ex-football player with a lot of money is hard enough) and then write it off as an election stunt or complain that it hasn't been done earlier?

Because law are only for the poor and the powerless, right?
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:37 AM on July 1, 2011


If we prosecuted as aggressively as Vick and Burress were, it would be done.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2011


"See you left-wing civil rights zealots, we DID prosecute torture! Now you have nothing left to complain about, Yes We Did! Obama 2012!

Huh. And I thought the typical Obama critic didn't believe in his "3D chess" skills. It's pretty impressive that he authorized an investigation two years ago that's meant to pay dividends a year and a half before the next election. Especially with the memory of the average voter, too. So in a four-year election cycle, anything the president does after after being in office eight months is a cynical ploy to get reelected three and a half years down the road. Got it.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:18 AM on July 1, 2011


Umm, yes, they do nothing without at least considering the political ramifications good or bad.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:24 AM on July 1, 2011


Setting aside the sarcasm implicit in my post, which hopefully makes clear that I find such a position ludicrously implausible,* that's an incredibly low standard I had assumed we were already taking into account. If that's the level we're operating on, there's really no point complaining about any of it, because there's nothing that immediately "does not count" simply because it was done after someone thought about how it affects their reelection chances.

If you want to complain that the initial scope just wasn't enough, well, I agree: it's the people who made the policies who are far, far more the villain than anyone who enacted them, in my opinion, and they're going to live out very nice lives, none the worse for wear, sadly. But this? If you're gonna complain about this just being a cynical stunt for 2012, you might as well pack it in and disavow political participation forever: nobody and nothing is ever gonna meet your standards.

Seriously. Eight months in office, and "he just did it to get reelected in 2012." Honestly, it's silly.

*Q: How did Obama know how long the investigation would take? How did he know what results it would return? A: He told them! Q: If that were true, why appoint people who are your political allies? If you can just magically make appointees do whatever you want, why not appoint a Republican, make yourself look good to that side to whatever degree you can, and then just force them to return the results you want, in the time frame you want anyway?
posted by Amanojaku at 12:03 PM on July 1, 2011


The timing doesn't matter. The theory that this is throwing a bone is that it is throwing a bone to liberal activists, who are the only ones who care about this. They would remember it if it was done months ago or months from now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:28 PM on July 1, 2011


What if justice finally comes creeping around
Meanwhile Happy 4th of July Bradley
posted by adamvasco at 1:05 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


‘Some Will Call Me a Torturer’: CIA Man Reveals Secret Jail
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously. Eight months in office, and "he just did it to get reelected in 2012." Honestly, it's silly.

I don't think this investigation was just to get reelected. Like almost every thing Obama's done, this was a token gesture to make the barest minimum effort towards uncovering the extent of torture abuses. He's doing just enough to say that he tried, while actually sweeping the real extent of the problem under the rug as fast as possible, lest any important people end up looking like war criminals. Now that it's wrapped up and we have our two fall guys (or the two token criminal inquires), that's one more checkmark off his To Do list. At this point it's the defining mode of how this administration works and thinks.

Health care- solved that one.
Housing crisis- HAMP solved all that, right? ...right?
Stop the wars - well we've set a date, call that one a done deal.
Economy - Why doesn't anyone give us credit for the stimulus, that was a brilliant idea! Tax cuts are magic, all the Republicans told me so!

A for effort, everyone gets a participation trophy. What's next on the list?
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:42 PM on July 1, 2011


It's been quite some time since the administration declared that it was happy with HAMP. Last I saw, they were upset at the sevicers' refusal to work with borrowers in good faith.

Granted, it's plainly obvious why they don't: they make more money not modifying because the foreclosure process generates more fees than the HAMP program gives them in incentives. Nevertheless, I don't think anyone is happy with how that program turned out. It needs to be an affirmative duty, rather than an option, but there's no way that change would make it through Congress at the moment.

That said, housing is looking a damn sight better than it was two years ago in the places I keep track of. No thanks to HAMP. More thanks to the moneyed class snapping up properties that they feel are undervalued and the now expired tax credits.
posted by wierdo at 4:14 PM on July 3, 2011


"Because law are only for the poor and the powerless, right?"

Yes, that would exactly be the problem. Or am I actually saying it's good that people with
great wealth can circumvent the law as your statement would indicate?
Nice reading comprehension there. .

"He's doing just enough to say that he tried,
while actually sweeping the real extent of the problem under the rug as fast as possible,"

Except tho' he's sort of opposing it. This was initiated by Holder and the justice dep... hell with it. Just keep making things
up from your own misinterpretations.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:31 AM on July 6, 2011


Unredacting “The Interrogator”
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on July 11, 2011


« Older Stuck on a train for an hour every day and sick of...  |  Splitscreen: A Love Story is a... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments