Jonathan Turley, the media-friendly George Washington Law School professor, who’s an outspoken advocate of curbing executive power, gave a bravura performance on MSNBC’s Countdown last night, on the subject of possible torture prosecutions.
Arguing that investigations aren’t just necessary but long overdue, Turley made two important points that have been getting a bit lost in the rapid-fire debate lately.First, he said, there’s a huge difference between an investigation conducted by Congress or a bipartisan commission, on the one hand, and the appointment of a special prosecutor by the Justice Department, on the other. The former approach is likely to repeat the mistakes of the 9/11 Commission, in which Washington insiders largely ensured that there were no major political repercussions. Only the latter approach, he said, will ensure genuine accountability.
Second, Turley lamented the way that the Washington debate has lately centered on the issue of whether the DOJ lawyers who wrote the memos — John Yoo, Steven Bradbury, and Jay Bybee, among others — will face prosecution. But a full investigation, of course, should focus on those who ordered the polices — including, if necessary, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet, and others — not just the lawyers who produced the legal rationale for it.
Of course, Turley’s advice will almost certainly not be followed. But it’s worth keeping his views in mind as a baseline of what, in an ideal world, should be happening.