Reps. John Conyers and Jerry Nadler want a special prosecutor to investigate whether Bush administration officials committed crimes in ordering and justifying torture policies.
In a just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democratic lawmakers write:
The authorization and use of interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture has generated concern and outrage in this country, and has harmed our legal and moral standing in the world. As a country committed to the rule of law, we must investigate and demand accountability for acts of torture committed by or own our behalf (sic). Appointing a special counsel to undertake this task would serve the interests of the department and of the public in ensuring that the necessary investigation is through and impartial, and that the United States fairly investigates serious and credible accusations of misconduct, even where high-ranking government officials may be involved.
Conyers and Nadler are, respectively, the chair of the House Judiciary committee and the chair of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. As they make clear in their letter, they made similar requests of the two previous Attorneys General over the last few years.
The case for a prosecutor to probe torture — as opposed to a congressional committee or an outside commission, was well laid out recently by George Washington Law professor Johnathan Turley. Only a special prosecutor, Turley argued on MSNBC, will be sufficiently independent to ensure genuine accountability, rather than merely providing political cover.
In recent days, President Obama has backed off the idea of an outside commission, after at first seeming to embrace it. But the special prosecutor idea doesn’t appear to even be on the table.