Clean Slate: Holder Ends Last Torture Investigation Without Charges

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced late last week that the Administration had finally fulfilled the promise of President Barack Obama when, soon after taking office, he promised CIA employees that no one would be charged with torture despite his acknowledgement that water boarding is clearly torture under domestic and international law. Holder announced that the final investigation into deaths of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003 respectively would not result in a single charge of any kind. Recently, John Cusack published an interview with me where we discussed the abandonment of core civil liberties principles as well as the expansion of unilateral executive power under President Obama. Now, just before the uncontested Democratic nomination convention, the Administration is reminding civil libertarians that it stands firmly on blocking the prosecution of what is widely viewed as war crimes by the U.S. After the creation of a comprehensive and premeditated torture program, not a single person will be charged despite acknowledged waterboarding and deaths of detainees. The Department did say that it was uncertain of the “propriety of the examined conduct.” War crimes is now a matter of uncertain “propriety.”

Thus, with little more than a whimper, a three-year investigation of torture came to a predictable and disgraceful end. The Justice Department simply announced “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The latest questions of propriety involve the deaths of Gul Rahman in 2002 after he was shackled to a concrete wall in near-freezing temperatures in the famous CIA-ran “Salt Pit.” He was suspected of being a militant. The other case is Manadel al-Jamadi who died in 2003 at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In a truly spellbinding moment, Holder blames the “statutes of limitations and jurisdictional provisions.” Of course, it was the Justice Department that delayed prosecution and the military that botched an investigation in a way that made prosecution difficult.

However, there is going to be one prosecution. Former CIA official John C. Kiriakou, is awaiting trial on criminal charges after disclosing information on the torture programs and those who committed the torture.

Source: NY Times

67 thoughts on “Clean Slate: Holder Ends Last Torture Investigation Without Charges”

  1. Arthur Randolph Erb: >”While I think that unquestionably torture was practiced, I have some reservations about the culpability of the low level people who actually did it. “<

    How so, Arthur? Torture is torture no matter WHO actually performs it. The Nuremburg Trials established the legal concept of 'obeying orders is no excuse' for crimes like torture. Now I realise that the low level soldiers involved at Abu Gahrib, for example, were 'following orders' (a little too gleefully if you ask me). However, at Nuremburg we made a point of creating the 'obeying orders is no excuse' so that we could indict as many people as we could. This has become legal doctrine and international law. I understand, after having served four years in the Navy, that actually putting that theory into practice (disobeying orders) will get you a span in Leavenworth. We were always told to do whatever was ordered and if you felt it was an illegal order you were free to question AFTER the order was carried out (and if you were willing to accept the consequences). I assume that the policy remains the same. Yes, Bush, Cheny, Rumsfeld, should ALL be tried for war crimes (especially John Yu). However, for us to be consistent, anyone who participated in torture, whether a President or a PFC needs to be tried. Of course, this will never happen.

  2. I do not believe that the joint tribunals at Nuremburg would have bothered with prosecuting defendants who waterboarded detainees. They had huge genocide cases. But they did have what is known as The Judges Trial. If one Googles that name and the name : Alstoeffer (sp?), who was a defendant, you will see that the Americans were interested in prosecuting the participants in the legal circle of Nazi Germany. America had a series of trials, military trials, after the intternational tribunals were over– again in Nuremburg. I do not think that historians will judge Holder harshly at all for not charging the waterboarders. Time will tell. Need to waterboard Cheny.

  3. Kraaken: ” just one more example of the fact that justice does not prevail in our country anymore.” — if it ever did.

  4. Raff, occasionally the disconnect between politics for general consumption and reality is just downright insulting.

  5. Apparently Bahrain tortured some of its citizens to elicit confessions and tried them before a kangaroo court.

    Dept. of Irony update # 296306c:

    “U.S. ‘troubled’ as Bahrain upholds activists’ sentences”

    “The US urged Bahrain “to abide by its commitment to respect detainees’ right to due process and to transparent judicial proceedings, including fair trials and access to attorneys,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

    “It is important that verdicts are based on credible evidence and that judicial proceedings are conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations,” Ventrell said in a statement.

    “We call on the government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable those found responsible.” ”

  6. I think this and many other issues demonstrate that perhaps it is time to have a serious national discussion on eliminating the Attorney General’s office as a cabinet position, responsible to the executive branch of government and make it an independent office along the lines perhaps as example the Federal Reserve is presently.

    Initially, my thinking is that one of the benefits of having an independent attorney general’s office there would not be as much tie to a political office and therefore an instrument of the president. It would be in a much more solid ground to initiate corruption or misconduct charges against government officials and nobody would be off limits. Including the president.

    I don’t think, at least initially, it would be good to have the Department of Justice as a subsidiary of the AG’s Office but it might be best if this was independent as well but subject to appropriate and transparent oversight.

  7. I have to say that during the last election, I was proud to vote for the President and the policies that he espoused. The reality, however turned out to be a different story. I had hoped that this election would be the first in which I could vote without holding my nose. I WILL cast my vote for the President only because the alternative is to horrible to contemplate. However, with people like Holder, appointed by the President, Napolitano, appointed by the President, those appointments show an extraordinary lack of foresight and an amazing lack of interest in protecting the Constitution, And THIS from a man who was a Constitutional Law professor! This decision by Holder (not to mention the DoJs general lack of interest in the voter ID laws) is just one more example of the fact that justice does not prevail in our country anymore.

  8. Since I’ve linked this thread a couple of times from Twitter, I should say “Hi”

    The reason I linked it was that the UK Government have been assuring the Government of Ecuador that there is no way that Julian Assange will be extradited to the US if
    1) He is faced with “The Death Penalty” ( for which we can realistically substitute being faced with “having to wear a blue jumpsuit instead of an orange one” or “having to wear a silly hat” – for the slow learners at the back of the class = What they extradite him for won’t carry a mandatory death sentence.)
    2) His Human Rights might be abused

    Really! The UK Government and William Hague see no circumstance under which the US would abuse the human rights of anyone.
    That is, of course unless the US when asked if they intended to abuse the human rights of anyone would say “Yeah”.

    So – If you can’t be Vague, be Hague
    This is the man himself!

    I love it !
    His name is Hague
    It rhymes with Vague

    .. and there’s this Convention … and a War Crimes Tribunal based in …. somewhere…. (before which no Americans will ever appear)

  9. And easily 90% of the pontificators here will vote for four more years of right-wing government.

    Yes, it’s true they killed some guy and claimed his name was Osama. I guess the the OBL corpse was exhumed from his long sleep just for the occasion. OTOH, no American troops will be involved in the next war for the Jews — assuming Syria is Israel’s next target.

  10. All the dogs in this dogpack are part of the Dogs Against The Willard Pac. Willard is the guy who put his dog in a crate and strapped it on top of his car and drove across country. We have signs strapped on our sides and are out in force this week. And dont think we dont vote. Early and often.

  11. @ Francois T 1, September 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

    “It’s me again. I have a question, which won’t be from a legal eagle. (I fix people, not laws.)

    The DOJ has gotten into this habit of ending their press releases with the following boilerplate:

    “admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Again, I’m no legal eagle but…by its very nature, isn’t it impossible to even PREDICT the outcome of a prosecution, unless we have a rigged trial? I mean, people go to the court to SETTLE a matter of law, which cannot, a priori, portend a guaranteed outcome.”

    If you know the law and know the facts and the facts are not in dispute, then it may be possible to KNOW with reasonable certainty the outcome of a prosecution. It’s almost always possible for a prosecutor to PREDICT the outcome of a prosecution. Any experienced litigator should have a feel for how strong or weak his or her case may be considering the law, the evidence, the judge, the jury, the lawyers, etc. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a prosecutor deciding not to bring a case after investigating and analyzing the evidence. In fact, I believe that a prosecutor has an ethical duty NOT to bring a case when he or she believes that there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction under the law. The question here is whether the statement is accurate and whether a good faith effort was made to get the admissible evidence necessary to sustain a conviction.

  12. I’m guessing those on Obama’s kill list, indefinitely detained, black-/watch-listed, haven’t enjoyed such a robust “presumption of innocence,” prolonged investigations, or “due process” protections, as the US employees who ordered- or executed- War Crimes. I’m also guessing Obama/Holder won’t be calling for a global amnesty for all War Criminals, Nazi Death Camp guards, torturers, who were just “following orders,” now that the Nurernburg legal standards are null & void.

    I wish the Obama administration would stop with these fraudulent show investigations & tribunals, and bogus legal inventions (e.g. secret “due process” for ‘kill list’), which make them, the US, & “rule of law,” appear like ridiculous, hypocritical fraudsters, like USSR propagandists & “show trials.”

    Has anyone noted absurdity that the so-called “investigation” into US torture, was narrowed down to 2 cases where victims were tortured to death (i.e. murdered)? I know many victims of torture beg to be murdered, and am not sure murder is less humane, worse crime, than prolonged torture.

  13. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. And, there is almost no kind of outrage—
    the use of hostages,
    forced labor,
    mass deportations,
    imprisonment without trial,
    the bombing of civilians,
    Which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by our side.”

    fm. George Orwell on nationalism (1945).

    Seems to me that 21st century America has most of the list covered.

    How to brainwash a nation:
    Demorralization yep
    Destabilization yep
    crisis yep
    Normalization (their still working on that one) see for eg Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and the “new normal”

    A large majority of Americans when polled express a belief that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Cheney famously opined that Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. This electoral season seems well on its way to proving that the truth doesn’t matter either. Matthew Dowd expressed that “sooner or later the truth has to matter” (said as a political pundit on (This week in Washington). He said it kind of plaintively, almost as if he was trying to convince himself that it would. I’m not sure that the truth will out or that it will matter. We have become dishonest as a culture. The coin of the realm is power not reason or principle. Our prospects going forward, unknown. I for one find reasons for optimism in that this board’s commentary tells me that a lot of intelligent people are paying attention and not liking what they are seeing.


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