Despite President Obama's desire to move forward and not focus on the past, Attorney General Eric Holder had little choice but to appoint a prosecutor to examine the abuse of terrorism suspects. Holder can't overlook apparent violations of U.S. law just because it would be better politics for his boss.
As Holder said Monday, "My duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law. Given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take."
Part of that information was released Monday as a result of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. The heavily redacted 2004 CIA inspector general's report said that CIA interrogators conducted mock executions, choked a prisoner repeatedly, and threatened to kill a detainee's children and to force another to watch his mother being sexually assaulted. These actions were in addition to previously reported torture, including the waterboarding of one detainee nearly 200 times.
The aim of the review is to determine whether a full criminal investigation is warranted, which may or may not be the case. And the inquiry appears to be narrowly focused on incidents in which interrogators went beyond the "enhanced interrogation" techniques approved by Justice Department attorneys.
The report suggests that some interrogators knew they crossed the line. One predicted at the time that they would have to appear in court someday to answer for their tactics. And the report concluded that the CIA used "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane" practices.
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