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CIA Immunity: Fair or a Coverup?

President Obama’s decision to promise not to prosecute the CIA officers who carried out the range of freakish conduct and torture described in the latest set of Office of Legal Counsel memos released today could be seen as either 1) fair, because the CIA officers were following the advice of Department of Justice lawyers; or 2) part of a massive cover-up of unconscionable criminal activity.

Here’s what the Center for Constitutional Rights has to say about the “just following orders defense”, at least as regards waterboarding, which Attorney General Eric Holder has previously called torture:

It is one of the deepest disappointments of this administration that it appears unwilling to uphold the law where crimes have been committed by former Bush officials. Whether or not CIA operatives who conducted waterboarding are guaranteed immunity, it is the high level officials who conceived, justified and ordered the torture program who bear the most responsibility for breaking domestic and international law and must be prosecuted. Further, by redacting portions of the infamous torture memos before agreeing to release them today, as the news is reporting they will, the Obama administration is complicit in covering up the torture team’s crimes. The president issued a statement today full of contradictions, the most troubling being ‘This is a time for reflection, not retribution,’ followed shortly by, ‘The United States is a nation of laws.’ Government officials broke very serious laws: for there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again.

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