It is getting rather difficult to follow the line of logic at the White House on the torture investigation. For months, President Obama has been speaking about his intentions as to any investigation into the torture program. Then, this week, he suddenly declared that he should have no role in such decisions. Then the next day, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs declared that Obama did not want to see a special prosecutor. I discussed this statement last night on this segment of Hardball. In the meantime, it appears that new pictures of detainee will be released — though obviously not the videos of torture that were destroyed by CIA officials to prevent their being used against themselves.
Gibbs flatly ruled out the notion of a special counsel or independent prosecutor: “The lawyers that are involved are plenty capable of determining whether any law has been broken.” He then added curiously that they were not intervening in such decisions when he just ruled out this critical option: “I want to stress that that determination is not going to be made by the president, or the vice president, or anybody that works in the White House, because that’s why many, many, many, many moons ago we created a Department of Justice.”
The notion of the Justice Department investigating itself is absurd in this matter. Both career lawyers and political appointees were involved in these decisions at Justice. Many of these lawyers remain at the Justice Department. Moreover, the failure of other lawyers to object to these decisions may prove potentially embarrassing and a potential source of conflict. There also remains the towering appearance of a conflict of interest which should be enough to compel an appointment of a special prosecutor. Many, many, many, many moon age we created ethical rules that bar government lawyers from working in areas where they have an actual or appearance of a conflict of interest.