On his last full day in office, President George Bush issued commutations for former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. These were notably commutations and not full pardons. He has not yet issued any pardons on the torture program. I will be discussing the possible investigation of war crimes under the Obama Administration tonight on Rachel Maddow’s show.
The commutations will end the jail time on March 20, 2009. Ramos is serving an 11-year prison sentence; Compean is serving a 12-year term. They were convicted of shooting and wounding Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila (who was unarmed) in El Paso County, Texas. After the shooting, the officers were accused disposing of shell casings, lying to their supervisors, and filing a false investigative report.
The White House issued a statement that made clear that this was mercy and not forgiveness for the crimes: “The president has reviewed the circumstances of this case as a whole and the conditions of confinement and believes the sentences they received are too harsh and that they, and their families, have suffered enough for their crimes . . Commuting their sentences does not diminish the seriousness of their crimes. Ramos and Compean are convicted felons who violated their oaths to uphold the law and have been severely punished.”
They will remain convicted felons and face the ongoing restrictions accorded that status in terms of gun ownership, employment etc.
There are no pardons for the unlawful programs. Bush may be counting on Obama and the Democrats in continuing to block any serious investigation. It would be better for his legacy to show that, while nothing stopped the Democrats from investigating, there was never any criminal investigation or charge for the torture program.
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