Democrats' political prosecution of CIA operatives

Joseph Finder:

EARLY in 2002, Eric Holder, then a former deputy attorney general, said on CNN that the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay were “not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention,” particularly “given the way in which they have conducted themselves.”

Six years later, declaring that “Guantánamo Bay is an international embarrassment,” Mr. Holder said, “I never thought I would see the day when ... the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention.”

So what changed?

A lot of things, of course, but most of all, our national political climate. Reeling from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many on the front lines of the war against terrorism felt a sense of fear and urgency that, years later, it’s hard for some to recall. Now, the attacks receding into the past, a lot of us see things in a different light.

Certainly Mr. Holder, now the attorney general, does. Last week he announced the appointment of a career prosecutor, John Durham, to review a dozen or so cases of abuses inflicted upon detainees by Central Intelligence Agency employees and contractors in the course of carrying out “enhanced interrogation” (which they had been ordered to do, and which had been authorized by the Justice Department) and to determine whether to initiate a criminal investigation.

Mr. Holder doesn’t seem concerned that each of these cases was exhaustively reviewed, beginning in 2005, by career prosecutors under the supervision of the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Those men had access to the complete, unredacted report of the agency’s inspector general, an expurgated version of which was released on Monday. Yet these prosecutors recommended against criminal charges in all but one case. (That exception involved a contractor named David Passaro, who had assaulted a prisoner with a flashlight and kicked him in the groin, shortly after which the prisoner died. Mr. Passaro was convicted of assault and sentenced to eight years in prison.)

Mr. Holder’s decision, then, implies that justice wasn’t done five years ago probably because high-level officials in the George W. Bush administration put their thumbs on the scale of justice. This seems unlikely. The prosecutors in Virginia were well experienced in dealing with classified intelligence matters, as most of the federal intelligence agencies are in their district. They have a reputation for being hardheaded and unforgiving of C.I.A. transgressions.

Lacking reliable witnesses or forensic evidence, they made the only call they could have made: not to prosecute. In our nation of laws, that’s exactly the way you want government prosecutors to behave. And there is no indication that any of them has complained about being pressured to decide against criminal charges. If any new information has come out about these cases, any complaints about undue influence or any new witnesses, Mr. Holder hasn’t mentioned it. The prosecutors in this case had to abide by the Justice Department’s ruling, in August 2002, that no agency interrogator would face prosecution for exceeding the guidelines as long as he acted in “good faith” and didn’t have “the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering.” Not an easy distinction to make, surely, when the work you’re told to do seems to be designed precisely to inflict pain and suffering.

...

... No jury in America would have convicted them at the time they were being investigated. Not even close. Mr. Holder’s decision, then, raises fundamental questions of fairness. Once the Justice Department declined to prosecute five years ago, the misconduct cases were sent back to the Central Intelligence Agency to handle. The agency decided to take internal disciplinary action. The employees and contractors in question — having been assured by their employer that they would no longer be facing prosecution — presumably accepted the administrative sanctions, relying on the Justice Department decision to end the criminal inquiry.

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This is really pandering to the worst of the Democrat kooks who were angry that the war undermined their attacks on the Bush administration. By attacking the people who were defending us from the terrorist they hope to delegitimize the Bush war effort. In doing so they are undermining our war efforts and acting as the useful idiots of our enemies.

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