|Obama’s Investigation of CIA Interrogators Has No Integrity|
By Ashton Ellis
Thursday, May 12 2011
Debra Burlingame is the right kind of citizen activist: a force that frightens politicians in both parties. After losing her brother Charles, a pilot murdered by 9/11 hijackers who then flew his Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Debra founded 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. Through it, she’s pressed both the Bush and Obama administrations to make government less prone to the kind of security lapses terrorists like to target.
Ironically, it was during one such lapse in security that Debra found herself within earshot of President Obama last week. He was in New York taking a victory lap for the bin Laden raid, and Debra was invited to attend. But when she asked the president to close down an almost two-year-old Justice Department investigation of CIA interrogators because it stops others from pursuing vital information, the president dismissively said, “No, I will not.” Then he turned his back on Debra and walked away.
What President Obama also did was turn his back on any semblance of respect for the constitutional rights of the CIA interrogators who were simply doing a job they were told was legal.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, John Yoo and other Justice Department lawyers drafted legal memos defining torture and outlining the limits of acceptable interrogation. Though those legal opinions have been fallaciously dubbed the ‘Torture Memos’ by members of the Left, they represented the authoritative interpretation of domestic and international law by the United States government.
Armed with what at the time served as definitive authorization, CIA operatives went to work interrogating America’s worst enemies, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and others that gave information leading to the bin Laden raid. The Bush administration investigated allegations that some interrogators went beyond the limit, resulting in prosecutions and prison sentences for two agents. All the rest survived scrutiny.
The most controversial of the then-acceptable interrogation tactics are called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (EIT). Waterboarding – making a person feel as though he is drowning – qualifies as an EIT. So do certain methods of sleep deprivation, food rationing and psychological warfare.
But maybe the experts should add ex post facto investigations as well.
The Constitution guarantees that a citizen cannot be convicted of an act that was made illegal after he did it. To rule otherwise would invite just the kind of political prosecutions that members of America’s founding generation experienced under British rule. When they inserted this right into our Constitution, the Founders knew that society screeches to a halt when everyone lives in fear of violating a future, unstated standard of conduct.
As can be seen in Obama’s clipped refusal of Burlingame, all of this hardly matters to the former constitutional law professor now playing the part of President of the United States.
So far, Obama’s Justice Department investigation has yielded no prosecutions, nor is it likely to do so. Since the Bush administration already engaged in extensive probing of the interrogations, the likelihood is virtually zero that Eric Holder and his staff of undercover ACLU attorneys will unearth anything worth pursuing.
After almost two years and no indictments, the real reason for keeping the investigations active is becoming increasingly clear: It’s a political prosecution that plays well with President Obama’s liberal base. After all, if he can’t close down Guantanamo’s prison, is unable to repatriate its detainees and had to reverse himself on civilian trials for terrorists, what else can the president give the militant peaceniks in his party but a perpetual threat to prosecute CIA interrogators?
Debra Burlingame did America a favor by reporting her brief interaction with President Obama. She showed us a man incapable of serious debate, and uninterested in the integrity of the judicial process.
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