Whitehouse Calls for Wider Criminal Probe of Torture
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the former U.S. Attorney who’s been pointing out for more than a year that waterboarding is and always has been torture, made the key point yesterday (and the same one I made here) that the criminal investigation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that turned into torture would be an ordinary and obvious criminal investigation were it not for the fact that the subjects of inquiry include senior government officials.
Given that the Bush administration has admitted to waterboarding captives, Whitehouse writes in the National Law Journal, for “there to be investigation now is unexceptional.”
The only exceptional thing is the parties involved: the former vice president of the United States, his counsel David Addington, Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer John Yoo and their private contractors Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, psychologists who designed the torture program. But in America, high office does not put one outside the law. Indeed, it borders on unethical for a prosecutor to refuse to investigate the corpus delicti of a crime because of concern as to where the evidence may lead.
In other words, Whitehouse supports not only Attorney General Eric Holder’s announced “review” of certain interrogations gone too far, but the same sort of complete criminal investigation that goes wherever the facts lead — and that is supposed to happen whenever there’s evidence that serious crimes have occurred.
That doesn’t mean it will necessarily lead to convictions, of course.
When the evidence is all in, it may prove that all the conduct surrounding America’s descent into torture was proper, protected by good-faith legal defenses. But it’s too early to responsibly reach that conclusion. Investigation is what allows such a conclusion to be reached.