Friday, April 24, 2009

Four clear just views about moving ahead with prosecution of illegal acts by The Bush Administration

The New York Times
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April 24, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

Reclaiming America’s Soul

“Nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” So declared President Obama, after his commendable decision to release the legal memos that his predecessor used to justify torture. Some people in the political and media establishments have echoed his position. We need to look forward, not backward, they say. No prosecutions, please; no investigations; we’re just too busy.

And there are indeed immense challenges out there: an economic crisis, a health care crisis, an environmental crisis. Isn’t revisiting the abuses of the last eight years, no matter how bad they were, a luxury we can’t afford?

No, it isn’t, because America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.

And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.

What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true — even if truth and justice came at a high price — that would arguably be a price we must pay: laws aren’t supposed to be enforced only when convenient. But is there any real reason to believe that the nation would pay a high price for accountability?

For example, would investigating the crimes of the Bush era really divert time and energy needed elsewhere? Let’s be concrete: whose time and energy are we talking about?

Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to rescue the economy. Peter Orszag, the budget director, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to reform health care. Steven Chu, the energy secretary, wouldn’t be called away from his efforts to limit climate change. Even the president needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, be involved. All he would have to do is let the Justice Department do its job — which he’s supposed to do in any case — and not get in the way of any Congressional investigations.

I don’t know about you, but I think America is capable of uncovering the truth and enforcing the law even while it goes about its other business.

Still, you might argue — and many do — that revisiting the abuses of the Bush years would undermine the political consensus the president needs to pursue his agenda.

But the answer to that is, what political consensus? There are still, alas, a significant number of people in our political life who stand on the side of the torturers. But these are the same people who have been relentless in their efforts to block President Obama’s attempt to deal with our economic crisis and will be equally relentless in their opposition when he endeavors to deal with health care and climate change. The president cannot lose their good will, because they never offered any.

That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren’t allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years.

Some of them probably just don’t want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away.

Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don’t want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.

For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.

It’s hard, then, not to be cynical when some of the people who should have spoken out against what was happening, but didn’t, now declare that we should forget the whole era — for the sake of the country, of course.

Sorry, but what we really should do for the sake of the country is have investigations both of torture and of the march to war. These investigations should, where appropriate, be followed by prosecutions — not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws.

We need to do this for the sake of our future. For this isn’t about looking backward, it’s about looking forward — because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.


Two other excellent columns/posts -

Arianna Huffington - "The Torture Moment"

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington

Posted April 24, 2009 | 07:10 PM (EST)

The Torture Moment

This is a defining moment for America.

The way we respond -- or fail to respond -- to the revelations about the Bush administration's use of torture will delineate -- for ourselves and for the world -- the kind of country we are.

It is a test of our courage and our convictions. A test of whether we are indeed a nation of laws -- or a nation that pays lip service to the notion of being a nation of laws.

And everyone engaged in our public conversation has a role to play.

So far, the media are not getting high marks. They can't seem to shake their addiction to looking at every issue -- even one that pivots on questions of morality, not politics -- through the archaic prism of right vs. left.

So we got CNN's Ed Henry mainlining a right-left 8-ball at Tuesday's press briefing, asking Robert Gibbs, "Is this an example of this White House giving in to pressure from the left?"

And we got the Washington Post's Dan Balz saying -- in two different pieces -- that Obama's release of the torture memos "has stirred a major controversy on the right and left." According to Balz, "the anger on the right was expected. But Obama faces equally strong reaction from the left, where there is a desire to punish Bush administration officials for their actions... Obama owes his presidency in part to this constituency, who rallied to him during the battle for the Democratic nomination because he presented himself as a staunch and early opponent of the war in Iraq. Now they are demanding that he acknowledge their point of view."

Since when is the need to adhere to the laws that govern us a left-wing "point of view"? Is Thou Shalt Not Kill a "point of view"? When the police arrest a rapist, is it because rape is inherently, inarguably wrong -- or because that's the cops' "point of view"?

Isn't torture one of those things where there really is no legitimate other side?

And if this really is a question of right vs. left, how do Henry, Balz, and all the others framing the discussion that way account for Shepard Smith's table-slamming outburst on's The Strategy Room? Was his "We are AMERICA! We do not fucking torture!" a left-wing point of view confusingly expressed by a right-wing commentator?

Memo to the media: Time to check in for a serious round of "right vs left" rehab. When it comes to torture, the only appropriate framing is "right vs wrong."

Obama and his team have had their own problems with the issue. Despite a commitment to looking forward, they failed to see the massive wall of public indignation directly in front of them.

After all the internal back-and-forth they apparently had about how to handle the issue, it was interesting to see how fast they reversed course -- the president quickly walking back from Rahm Emanuel's unequivocal "no prosecution" position.

Once the spotlight was turned on, it was impossible to sustain the let's-just-move-on stance. What is at stake is just too huge to sweep under the presidential rug. It leaves too big a lump in the middle of the Oval Office -- and too big a stumbling block in the path of Obama's presidency.

I understand the president's preference for "reflection" over "anger and retribution." But this is not about personal pique or a desire for vengeance. It's about the nation's fundamental morality.

Which is why it is imperative that we keep the pressure on the president, on Congress, and on the Justice Department. Not left-wing pressure. Not blogospheric pressure. Moral pressure. The pressure born of America's values.

Pressure to do the right thing. The moral thing. The legal thing. Pressure to keep the acts of the Bush White House from being implicitly condoned. And to keep the abuse of presidential power -- and the use of torture -- from becoming American precedent.

In pushing for a truth commission on torture, Sen. Patrick Leahy had repeatedly said that "we can't turn the page unless we first read the page." But we've actually read the page -- the torture memos -- and been horrified by what we're read. So now we need to act on that horror. And we can only do that by holding accountable those responsible for authorizing the use of torture.

The clock is ticking while the world waits to see if Yeats was right. Do the best of us really lack the conviction necessary to make sure that justice is done? Is it really only the worst of us who are full of passionate intensity? (See Rove and Cheney and Hayden coming out swinging, acting -- as John Cusack described them to me -- "like caged, cornered animals.")

And do the best of us become the worst of us if our passionate intensity does not make the leap from words to action?


and the suberb -

Glenn Greenwald - "Democratic complicity and what 'politicizing justice' really means"


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Democratic complicity and what "politicizing justice" really means

Trying to block criminal investigations for political reasons is itself a form of corruption.

Glenn Greenwald

Apr. 24, 2009 |

(updated below)

Bush-defending opponents of investigations and prosecutions think they've discovered a trump card: the claim that Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi, Jay Rockefeller and Jane Harman were briefed on the torture programs and assented to them. The core assumption here -- shared by most establishment pundits -- is that the call for criminal investigations is nothing more than a partisan-driven desire to harm Republicans and Bush officials ("retribution"), and if they can show that some Democratic officials might be swept up in the inquiry, then, they assume, that will motivate investigation proponents to think twice.

Those who make that argument are clearly projecting. They view everything in partisan and political terms -- it's why virtually all media discussions are about what David Gregory calls "the politics of the torture debate" rather than the substantive issues surrounding these serious crimes -- and they are thus incapable of understanding that not everyone is burdened by the same sad affliction that plagues them.

Most people who have spent the last several years (rather than the last several weeks) vehemently objecting to the Bush administration's rampant criminality have been well aware of, and quite vocal about, the pervasive complicity of many key Democrats in this criminality. Just to cite two examples, here is my December, 2007 post entitled "Democratic complicity in Bush's torture regime", and here is another from July, 2008, arguing that Democrats have blocked investigations into Bush crimes because of how it would implicate them; quoting The New Yorker's Jane Mayer as saying that "many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised"; and quoting Jonathan Turley as saying (on Keith Olbermann's program) that "the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members."

The reality is exactly the opposite (as usual) of what is being depicted in our media discussions. The call for criminal investigations of torture and other forms of government criminality is the most apolitical and non-partisan argument one can make. The ones who are trying to politicize the justice system and exploit the rule of law for partisan gain are those who are arguing against criminal investigations. John Cole explained this point perfectly yesterday:

At some point they are going to figure out that for most of us, we don’t care if the person has a (R) or (D) behind their name when they were instituting a policy of torture. That is what is so depressing (to me, at least) about the Ari Fleischer’s and the Thiessen’s of the world. They honestly seem to think this is nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt, the same old Washington gotcha politics. It isn’t. When you torture people, you have crossed a really clear line. Innocent people are dead. Lives have been ruined. Our international reputation has been destroyed. Yes, the Bush administration will get most of the blame, but that is because they were in charge and they did this, not because of what party they happen to belong to. If Jane Harman and Nancy Pelosi knew about this and ok’d it, they are just as culpable.

Precisely. To be fair, there are disputes about what exactly Democratic leaders were and were not told, and there are disputes about what they said or did not say. That's what happens when a government operates in virtually total secrecy and does everything possible to stonewall public disclosure. The dispute over the role of Democratic leaders further bolsters the need for full-scale investigations: we ought to know everything that led to these crimes, including the true extent to which the "opposition party" was informed about what was being done and approved of it. The failure of the Democratic Party to meaningfully oppose what was done over the last eight years is a crucial part of the story here and light needs to be shined on that as much as anything else. I don't know of a single person who has devoted themselves to arguing for investigations who contests that fact.

The inability of so many people (both Republicans and Obama-loyal Democrats) to view the need for prosecutions independent of political considerations is a potent sign of how sick our political culture has become. The need for criminal investigations is motivated by one simple, consummately apolitical fact: serious and brutal crimes were committed at the highest levels of the government, ones that left a trail of many victims. A country that purports to live under the rule of law has no choice but to treat its most powerful members who commit serious crimes exactly the same as ordinary citizens who do so. That has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats.

It has to do with the most central premise of the American system of government: that we are a nation of laws, not men, and all are equal before the law. People like John McCain argue that only "banana republics" prosecute former political leaders, but the reality is exactly the opposite. As the Western world has spent decades pointing out, the hallmark of an under-developed, tyrannical society is the very same premise we have embraced: that political elites are free to break the law with impunity and never suffer the consequences that ordinary citizens do.

* * * * *

Interestingly -- and encouragingly -- the potency of this principle is such that a call for criminal investigations is now slowly though clearly starting to seep into our mainstream discussions. In The New York Times, Paul Krugman today emphatically calls for criminal investigations, mocking Obama supporters who claim that applying the rule of law will unduly interfere with Obama's political agenda and pointing out that prosecutions are needed "not out of vindictiveness, but because this is a nation of laws." In The Washington Post today, the now-Pulitzer-Prize-winning Eugene Robinson echoes this argument:

The many roads of inquiry into the Bush administration's abusive "interrogation techniques" all lead to one stubborn, inconvenient fact: Torture is not just immoral but also illegal. This means that once we learn the whole truth, the law will oblige us to act on it. . . . The rule of law is one of this nation's founding principles. It's not optional. Our laws against torture demand to be obeyed -- and demand to be enforced.

That torture is a serious felony certainly is a "stubborn, inconvenient fact." Even the Bush-enabling Washington Post Editorial Page today points out that "American officials condoned and conducted torture"; "Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general of the United States, has stated flatly that it is illegal"; and "in a country founded on the rule of law, a president can't sweep criminality away for political reasons, even the most noble." I hope Obama loyalists study that last sentence and digest it.

As Andrew Sullivan hinted at last night, my claim yesterday that not a single "establishment pundit" has been advocating criminal investigations was a bit overstated -- Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann have been admirably banging this drum on MSNBC for weeks (and Sullivan for much longer than that) -- but a simple, non-partisan call to apply the rule of law to our government leaders was largely missing from most mainstream discussions, until now. As torture disclosures increase -- the ACLU yesterday announced that it has forced the DOD to agree to release many new photos showing American abuses of detainees outside of Abu Ghraib -- the pressure is clearly rising for criminal investigations.

* * * * *

Nonetheless, as they have done for years, Democratic leaders continue to lead the way in shielding Bush crimes from scrutiny and stifling public disclosure of what was done. Obama met yesterday with Congressional leaders and emphatically argued against the establishment of a Truth Commission, insisting that such an inquiry would interfere with his political agenda. Senate Majority "Leader" Harry Reid then dutifully and obediently announced that Senate Democrats will block any such investigations in favor of a Senate Intelligence Committee proceeding that will occur largely in secret and will not be completed until the end of the year, at least (I remember when Democrats used to mock GOP leaders for having Dick Cheney come to Congress and give them their marching orders). Democratic Congressional leaders are doing now what they did throughout the Bush presidency: namely, pretending to oppose what was done while doing everything possible to protect and enable it and shield the wrongdoers from scrutiny (in large part because some of the wrongdoing was by their own party).

Obama's ostensible motives here are no better. The claim that punishing Bush crimes will undermine his political interests is not only false (as Krugman definitively establishes today) but also corrupt. Democrats spent the last several years vehemently complaining about the "politicization of the Justice Department" under Alberto Gonzales. Yet so many of these same Democrats are now demanding that the Obama DOJ refrain from prosecuting Bush criminals based on purely political grounds: namely, that those prosecutions will interfere with Obama's political agenda.

Blocking criminal investigations for political reasons is definitively corrupt -- period. That's true whether Democrats or Republicans do it. In The New York Times today, Mark Mazzetti and Neil Lewis advance the Jane-Harman/Alberto-Gonzales/AIPAC scandal by making clear that at the core of the scandal lies the actions of Alberto Gonzeles, who intervened to block a criminal investigation of Harman for purely political reasons:

One reason Mr. Gonzales intervened, the former officials said, was to protect Ms. Harman because they saw her as a valuable administration ally in urging The New York Times not to publish an article about the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants.

As Michael Isikoff pointed out on Rachel Maddow's show earlier this week, what Gonzales did there (blocking a criminal investigation of Harman because the investigation would undermine the White House's political interests) is extremely similar to what many Obama loyalists are arguing now (that criminal investigations of Bush crimes should be blocked because such investigations would undermine the White House's political interests). That is what made the efforts of Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and even Obama to dictate who would and would not be prosecuted so improper: it the role of independent Justice Department officials to make that decision based on purely legal and apolitical grounds, not the role of White House officials to try to interfere for political reasons. I was preceded yesterday on Warren Olney's To the Point program by Philip Zelikow, and Zelikow said: "I really don't think the President should have opinions on who should or should not be prosecuted -- full stop."

Punishing politically powerful criminals is about vindicating the rule of law. Partisan and political considerations should play no role in it. It is opponents of investigations and prosecutions who are being driven by partisan allegiances and a desire to advance their political interests. By contrast, proponents of investigations are seeking to vindicate the most apolitical yet crucial principle of our system of government: that we are a nation of laws that cannot allow extremely serious crimes to be swept under the rug for political reasons. That's true no matter what is best for Obama's political goals and no matter how many Democrats end up being implicated -- ethically, politically or even legally -- by the crimes that were committed.

UPDATE: Just to underscore how continuously Democrats are complicit in thwarting the rule of law in the United States: one of Obama's most impressive and rule-of-law-defending appointees, Dawn Johnsen, has had her nomination as OLC Chief blocked for months by the Right, and the office of a key Democratic Senator -- Ben Nelson -- just told Greg Sargent that Nelson "is all but certain to vote against Johnsen," substantially increasingly the GOP's chances of preventing her from becoming head of the OLC. That's our bipartisan Washington establishment in a nutshell: key Bush torture architects such as John Rizzo and Bush intelligence policy defenders such as John Brennan are able to remain in positions of high power in the Obama administration, while those, like Johnsen, who want accountability for government crimes are considered fringe, extremist and unfit for office.

-- Glenn Greenwald


Frank Rich - "The Banality of Bush White House Evil"

The New York Times
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April 26, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

The Banality of Bush White House Evil

WE don’t like our evil to be banal. Ten years after Columbine, it only now may be sinking in that the psychopathic killers were not jock-hating dorks from a “Trench Coat Mafia,” or, as ABC News maintained at the time, “part of a dark, underground national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement.” In the new best seller “Columbine,” the journalist Dave Cullen reaffirms that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were instead ordinary American teenagers who worked at the local pizza joint, loved their parents and were popular among their classmates.

On Tuesday, it will be five years since Americans first confronted the photographs from Abu Ghraib on “60 Minutes II.” Here, too, we want to cling to myths that quarantine the evil. If our country committed torture, surely it did so to prevent Armageddon, in a patriotic ticking-time-bomb scenario out of “24.” If anyone deserves blame, it was only those identified by President Bush as “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values”: promiscuous, sinister-looking lowlifes like Lynddie England, Charles Graner and the other grunts who were held accountable while the top command got a pass.

We’ve learned much, much more about America and torture in the past five years. But as Mark Danner recently wrote in The New York Review of Books, for all the revelations, one essential fact remains unchanged: “By no later than the summer of 2004, the American people had before them the basic narrative of how the elected and appointed officials of their government decided to torture prisoners and how they went about it.” When the Obama administration said it declassified four new torture memos 10 days ago in part because their contents were already largely public, it was right.

Yet we still shrink from the hardest truths and the bigger picture: that torture was a premeditated policy approved at our government’s highest levels; that it was carried out in scenarios that had no resemblance to “24”; that psychologists and physicians were enlisted as collaborators in inflicting pain; and that, in the assessment of reliable sources like the F.B.I. director Robert Mueller, it did not help disrupt any terrorist attacks.

The newly released Justice Department memos, like those before them, were not written by barely schooled misfits like England and Graner. John Yoo, Steven Bradbury and Jay Bybee graduated from the likes of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Michigan and Brigham Young. They have passed through white-shoe law firms like Covington & Burling, and Sidley Austin.

Judge Bybee’s résumé tells us that he has four children and is both a Cubmaster for the Boy Scouts and a youth baseball and basketball coach. He currently occupies a tenured seat on the United States Court of Appeals. As an assistant attorney general, he was the author of the Aug. 1, 2002, memo endorsing in lengthy, prurient detail interrogation “techniques” like “facial slap (insult slap)” and “insects placed in a confinement box.”

He proposed using 10 such techniques “in some sort of escalating fashion, culminating with the waterboard, though not necessarily ending with this technique.” Waterboarding, the near-drowning favored by Pol Pot and the Spanish Inquisition, was prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II. But Bybee concluded that it “does not, in our view, inflict ‘severe pain or suffering.’ ”

Still, it’s not Bybee’s perverted lawyering and pornographic amorality that make his memo worthy of special attention. It merits a closer look because it actually does add something new — and, even after all we’ve heard, something shocking — to the five-year-old torture narrative. When placed in full context, it’s the kind of smoking gun that might free us from the myths and denial that prevent us from reckoning with this ugly chapter in our history.

Bybee’s memo was aimed at one particular detainee, Abu Zubaydah, who had been captured some four months earlier, in late March 2002. Zubaydah is portrayed in the memo (as he was publicly by Bush after his capture) as one of the top men in Al Qaeda. But by August this had been proven false. As Ron Suskind reported in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” Zubaydah was identified soon after his capture as a logistics guy, who, in the words of the F.B.I.’s top-ranking Qaeda analyst at the time, Dan Coleman, served as the terrorist group’s flight booker and “greeter,” like “Joe Louis in the lobby of Caesar’s Palace.” Zubaydah “knew very little about real operations, or strategy.” He showed clinical symptoms of schizophrenia.

By the time Bybee wrote his memo, Zubaydah had been questioned by the F.B.I. and C.I.A. for months and had given what limited information he had. His most valuable contribution was to finger Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the 9/11 mastermind. But, as Jane Mayer wrote in her book “The Dark Side,” even that contribution may have been old news: according to the 9/11 commission, the C.I.A. had already learned about Mohammed during the summer of 2001. In any event, as one of Zubaydah’s own F.B.I. questioners, Ali Soufan, wrote in a Times Op-Ed article last Thursday, traditional interrogation methods had worked. Yet Bybee’s memo purported that an “increased pressure phase” was required to force Zubaydah to talk.

As soon as Bybee gave the green light, torture followed: Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to another of the newly released memos. Unsurprisingly, it appears that no significant intelligence was gained by torturing this mentally ill Qaeda functionary. So why the overkill? Bybee’s memo invoked a ticking time bomb: “There is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks.”

We don’t know if there was such unusual “chatter” then, but it’s unlikely Zubaydah could have added information if there were. Perhaps some new facts may yet emerge if Dick Cheney succeeds in his unexpected and welcome crusade to declassify documents that he says will exonerate administration interrogation policies. Meanwhile, we do have evidence for an alternative explanation of what motivated Bybee to write his memo that August, thanks to the comprehensive Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainees released last week.

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantánamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: “A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful.” As higher-ups got more “frustrated” at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, “there was more and more pressure to resort to measures” that might produce that intelligence.

In other words, the ticking time bomb was not another potential Qaeda attack on America but the Bush administration’s ticking timetable for selling a war in Iraq; it wanted to pressure Congress to pass a war resolution before the 2002 midterm elections. Bybee’s memo was written the week after the then-secret (and subsequently leaked) “Downing Street memo,” in which the head of British intelligence informed Tony Blair that the Bush White House was so determined to go to war in Iraq that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” A month after Bybee’s memo, on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney would make his infamous appearance on “Meet the Press,” hyping both Saddam’s W.M.D.s and the “number of contacts over the years” between Al Qaeda and Iraq. If only 9/11 could somehow be pinned on Iraq, the case for war would be a slamdunk.

But there were no links between 9/11 and Iraq, and the White House knew it. Torture may have been the last hope for coercing such bogus “intelligence” from detainees who would be tempted to say anything to stop the waterboarding.

Last week Bush-Cheney defenders, true to form, dismissed the Senate Armed Services Committee report as “partisan.” But as the committee chairman, Carl Levin, told me, the report received unanimous support from its members — John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman included.

Levin also emphasized the report’s accounts of military lawyers who dissented from White House doctrine — only to be disregarded. The Bush administration was “driven,” Levin said. By what? “They’d say it was to get more information. But they were desperate to find a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.”

Five years after the Abu Ghraib revelations, we must acknowledge that our government methodically authorized torture and lied about it. But we also must contemplate the possibility that it did so not just out of a sincere, if criminally misguided, desire to “protect” us but also to promote an unnecessary and catastrophic war. Instead of saving us from “another 9/11,” torture was a tool in the campaign to falsify and exploit 9/11 so that fearful Americans would be bamboozled into a mission that had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. The lying about Iraq remains the original sin from which flows much of the Bush White House’s illegality.

Levin suggests — and I agree — that as additional fact-finding plays out, it’s time for the Justice Department to enlist a panel of two or three apolitical outsiders, perhaps retired federal judges, “to review the mass of material” we already have. The fundamental truth is there, as it long has been. The panel can recommend a legal path that will insure accountability for this wholesale betrayal of American values.

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won’t vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don’t need another commission. We don’t need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation’s commitment to the rule of law.


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