Dems Urge Holder To Allow Torture Probe To Go Further

Some top Democrats are expressing disappointment with Eric Holder’s announcement of a probe into Bush-era torture, and specifically with Holder’s apparent decision to ensure the probe doesn’t look at the Bush officials who authorized the policy.

In just-released statements, Reps John Conyers and Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary committee applaud the decision to probe torture, but add that “it would not be fair or just for frontline personnel to be held accountable while the policymakers and lawyers escape scrutiny after creating and approving conditions where such abuses were all but inevitable to occur.”Sen Russ Feingold agrees. His statement says, in full:

I applaud Attorney General Holder’s decision to appoint a prosecutor to review the shocking violations of law that took place under the Bush administration. We cannot simply sweep these abuses under the rug. This investigation should not be limited to those who carried out interrogations or to whether the abuses they engaged in were officially sanctioned. The abuses that were officially sanctioned amounted to torture and those at the very top who authorized, ordered or sought to provide legal cover for them should be held accountable.

And Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, similarly welcomed the investigation, but said: “I still believe that a nonpartisan, independent review is the best way to get the full picture of how our laws were applied or broken.”

Here’s the full Conyers-Nadler statement:

Conyers and Nadler Applaud Appointment of Special Prosecutor

Policymakers and Lawyers Must Also Be Held to Account

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued the following statements in response to the Department of Justice decision to appoint a special prosecutor to review certain cases of alleged abuse of detainees.

“I applaud the Attorney General’s decision to appoint a special US Attorney to review the interrogation abuse cases that were rejected for prosecution by George Bush’s Justice Department,” said Conyers. “The Obama Administration also deserves praise for the release of the 2004 CIA Inspector General report as well as related DOJ memos. These materials are truly disturbing, including the CIA’s basic conclusion that ‘unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques were used’ in its program. Reading about misdeeds such as threats to kill a detainees’ children or the staging of mock executions leaves us appalled.

“Today’s release — even of these still heavily redacted materials — is thus an important step toward restoring the rule of law in this country, and rebuilding our credibility around the world. But much more remains to be done. The gruesome acts described in today’s report did not happen in a vacuum. It would not be fair or just for frontline personnel to be held accountable while the policymakers and lawyers escape scrutiny after creating and approving conditions where such abuses were all but inevitable to occur.

“I have long believed that Department rules require a special counsel to review the entire interrogation program to determine if any crimes were committed. An independent and bipartisan commission should also be convened to evaluate the broader issues raised by the Bush Administration’s brutal torture program.”

“The CIA Inspector General’s report on interrogation practices under the Bush administration is a disturbing record of abuse that details why this must never happen again and why action on the part of the Justice Department is essential,” said Nadler. “Today’s news that the Attorney General has listened to our many requests and is poised to appoint a special counsel is very much welcome. I applaud the Attorney General for this first step. But, we must go further. As I have said for many months, it is vital that this special counsel be given a broad mandate to investigate these abuses, to follow the evidence where it leads, and to prosecute where warranted. This must be a robust mission to gather any and all evidence without predetermination of where it may lead. Seeking out only the low-level actors in a conspiracy to torture detainees will bring neither justice nor restored standing to our nation.”

And here’s the Leahy statement:

I recognize how difficult this decision has been for Attorney General Holder, and I am grateful that the Justice Department is finally being led by an independent Attorney General who is willing to begin investigating this dark chapter in our country’s history. I had no doubt that he would put the interests of the law ahead of politics, and he has demonstrated that. While I still believe that a nonpartisan, independent review is the best way to get the full picture of how our laws were applied or broken, I hope this investigation will also bring a measure of accountability to the American people in holding responsible those whose decisions may have undermined our values and our laws.

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