Rights Group Blasts Decision To Limit Torture Probe To “Low-Level Operatives”

The news that Eric Holder will appoint a prosecutor to probe Bush-era abuses hasn’t satisfied some torture foes.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has issued a statement blasting the AG for apparently limiting the scope of the probe to CIA personnel who exceeded DOJ guidelines — rather than including the DOJ lawyers who issued those guidelines, which themselves went far beyond what the law appears to allow.Says CCR:

Responsibility for the torture program cannot be laid at the feet of a few low-level operatives. Some agents in the field may have gone further than the limits so ghoulishly laid out by the lawyers who twisted the law to create legal cover for the program, but it is the lawyers and the officials who oversaw and approved the program who must be investigated.

The Attorney General must appoint an independent special prosecutor with a full mandate to investigate those responsible for torture and war crimes, especially the high ranking officials who designed, justified and orchestrated the torture program. We call on the Obama administration not to tie a prosecutor’s hands but to let the investigation go as far up the chain of command as the facts lead. We must send a clear message to the rest of the world, to future officials, and to the victims of torture that justice will be served and that the rule of law has been restored.

It’ll be interesting to see whether top Democrats on the issue, like Senators Russ Feingold, Pat Leahy, and Sheldon Whitehouse, agree…

Late Update: The reactions from top Democrats are coming in, and there’s some support for the CCR view.

Later Update: ACLU agrees, calling the decision to launch only a preliminary investigation, and to focus it only on CIA personnel and not on policy-makers and lawyers, “deeply troubling.” Here’s the full statement:

While this is a welcome first step, we are disappointed that Attorney General Holder still appears unwilling to conduct a full investigation and to prosecute any crimes that are uncovered. A preliminary investigation absent a commitment to prosecute violations of the law is simply anemic. How much evidence of wrongdoing and violations of law is necessary before the attorney general commits to launching a full investigation?. The CIA’s own inspector general documented in disturbing detail the level of the torture committed and the extent to which laws were broken. Attorney General Holder’s decision not to launch a full investigation is deeply troubling given the evidence already in the public domain of crimes that were committed. Any investigation that truly follows the facts where they lead would inevitably lead to prosecutions of high level officials – not just rogue agents in the field. This issue will not go away by deferring the hard decisions.

And so does Physicians for Human Rights, which says in a statement of its own that it “urges the Administration to pursue any investigation up the chain of command to those officials who authorized and supervised the use of illegal techniques.”

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