I thought Dick Cheney's interview was interesting. Chris Wallace probed the former Vice President on the release of the IG report on the CIA this week and about the appointment of a special prosecutor.
I have to agree with Cheney on a couple of points. The most obvious thing to me seems to be the fact that it is odd that we are expected to believe that Eric Holder is running with this investigation all on his own. Cheney points out that "The president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration" and he is ultimately responsible. That led, a moment later, to this exchange:
[Wallace]: A top Obama official says, “Hey, maybe in the Bush White House they told the attorney general what to do, but Eric Holder makes independent decisions.”
CHENEY: Well, I think if you look at the Constitution, the president of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer in the land. The attorney general’s a statutory officer. He’s a member of the cabinet.
The president’s the one who bears this responsibility, and for him to say, “Gee, I didn’t have anything to do with it,” especially after he sat in the Oval Office and said this wouldn’t happen, then Holder decides he’s going to do it, so now he’s backed off and is claiming he’s not responsible, I just -- I think he’s trying to duck the responsibility for what’s going on here, and I think it’s -- I think it’s wrong.I have to agree with that. The Buck Stops Here. Eric Holder was not elected to office by the American people; his boss was. He bears the responsibility.
That said, one must look back at the next point which is that if the buck DOES stop with Obama, and he IS ultimately responsible for what happens and for what Holder does, the fact remains that Obama is back-tracking on what he said back in April. In April he said "there wouldn’t be any investigation like this, that there would not be any look-back at CIA personnel who were carrying out the policies of the prior administration."
On February 9, Obama said, "If there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backward."
The Washington Post has a report this morning that morale at the CIA is low: "Morale has sagged at the CIA following the release of additional portions of an inspector general's review of the agency's interrogation program and the announcement that the Justice Department would investigate possible abuses by interrogators, according to former intelligence officials, especially those associated with the program. "
Well why wouldn't it?
The IG report was reviewed five years ago and put to rest. As Cheney points out, what this really means is that there will never be any end to the review process. Despite what Nancy Pelosi says, Congress was briefed. Everything, now matter how distasteful the intelligence business may be, and it is, was carried out properly. American lives were saved. Holder's move to reopen this all again is simply a political move rather than a letter-of-the-law move and a thinly veiled one at that.
But here we are. An investigation.
On This Week with George Stephanopoulous, the roundtable included Liz Cheney and George Will, among others. Will pointed out that Team Obama wants it to appear as if Obama is a disinterested bystander in this investigation and that simply is not the case.
Liz Cheney pointed out, of course, that this investigation has already been done by career prosecutors and they decided not to prosecute except for one case which has been handled; the offender is in jail.
Jennifer Rubin, writing for The Weekly Standard, makes clear the prosecutors findings five years ago: "Those reasons were summed up in a letter from Principal Assistant Deputy Attorney General Brian Benczkowski to Senator Richard Durbin dated February 7, 2008. In each case, Benczkowski wrote, the decision rested on "one or more of the following reasons: insufficient evidence of criminal conduct, insufficient evidence of the subject's involvement, insufficient evidence of criminal intent, and low probability of conviction. The federal prosecutors involved in reviewing alleged CIA misconduct were seasoned professionals who would not have hesitated to go public if political appointees had influenced their decision-making, according to multiple former Justice attorneys."
Holder has no new evidence to support reopening the investigation. He simply has a newly declassified report. There is no new information in there to be gleaned by a new prosecution. Only new public perception. He's making a political decision to reopen the investigation, to drag individuals through such an investigation with a very low chance at conviction, for what end?
Sam Donaldson, also speaking at the roundtable, seems to believe that since the IG report was reviewed under the Bush administration it is invalid; that the career prosecutors who did the investigaton were less than objective in their review simply because they were under the Bush administration. This would support Dick Cheney's fear that investigations and reviews would never end. They could be rehashed under each administration ad nauseum.
No wonder CIA morale is low. A.B. Krongard, a CIA official at the time of the interrogations, said "agency personnel now may back away from controversial programs that could place them in personal legal jeopardy should their work be exposed."
Do we feel safer now?
(More at Memeorandum)