The AP reports that CIA Director-nominee Leon Panetta has stated categorically that there will be no prosecutions for torturers.
Asked by The Associated Press if that was official policy, Panetta said, "That is the case."
It was the clearest statement yet on what Panetta and other Democratic officials had only strongly suggested: CIA officers who acted on legal orders from the Bush administration would not be held responsible for those policies. On Thursday, he told senators that the Obama administration had no intention of seeking prosecutions for that reason.
Panetta, in an interview with the AP after a second day of confirmation hearings with the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that he arrived at that conclusion even before he began meeting with CIA officials.
"It was my opinion we just can't operate if people feel even if they are following the legal opinions of the Justice Department" they could be in danger of prosecution, he said.
Panetta demurred on saying whether the Obama administration would take legal action against those who authorized or wrote the legal opinions that, for a time, set an extremely high legal bar for an action to constitute torture.
"I'll leave that for others," Panetta said.
...Panetta formally retracted a statement he made Thursday that the Bush administration transferred prisoners for the purpose of torture.
"I am not aware of the validity of those claims," he said.
As I've written before - and Scott Horton in particular has done a great job in pointing to the correct legal precedents for - being told torture and other war crimes were legally justified (especially when they cannot be) is no excuse. International law which was in part established by American prosecutors and judges at Nuremberg is that it is up to each individual to act his conscience and to bear the consequences of so doing.
Worse, not prosecuting the torturers sets up a malicious feedback that fatally undermines prosecutions for ordering torture. If there's no prosecution for commission of a crime, how can someone be prosecuted for ordering what is apparently admitted isn't a crime? No defense lawyer is going to pass up such a gift argument and the Obama administration knows it. Not prosecuting those who tortured is a "get out of jail free card" not only for the torturers but for those who ordered torture and those who falsely said torture could ever be legal. It's a travesty of justice and one that Chris Dodd has sadly admitted Democratic leaders have looked the other way on for purely political reasons.
And with the news that Panetta wants to reserve the possibility of using "enhanced interrogation" techniques which go beyond the US military code - which in turn is simply a retelling of the Geneva Conventions and binding treaties on torture - along with the Obama administration's complicity in shielding Bush officials from revelations of torture...well, my Newshoggers colleague Jay McDonough is correct. "We cannot, despite assurances otherwise, trust our government not to render and torture detainees."
Crossposted from Newshoggers