Prosecutor: Good Case Against Torture More Important Than Speed
Because, as she points out, unless we WIN we don't accomplish anything. This is why I think you need to hear her out:
First, the bottom line: From the perspective of anyone who wants Bush and Cheney and their top aides to be held accountable for their crimes, the designation of some sort of independent prosecutor right now would be the worst possible eventuality. It's a move that has so many downsides - and holds so few real benefits - that I would be more inclined to question President Obama's motives if he appointed a special prosecutor than if he did not. There is a reason why former prosecutor Arlen Specter - a Republican senator from Pennsylvania - has voiced support for a special prosecutor, while former prosecutors Patrick Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse - Democratic senators from Vermont and Rhode Island, respectively - would prefer a public inquiry.
What is it? Well, for starters, there is - under currently available US law - no such thing as a truly independent prosecutor. There has not been since 1999, when the independent counsel statute expired. Accordingly, regardless of the title given this individual - and whether she were tapped from inside or outside the Justice Department - this appointee would, at a minimum, be required to follow internal DOJ policies and her delegated authority could be revoked at any time. (The regulations that authorize appointing a non-DOJ attorney as "special counsel" - found at 28 C.F.R. Part 600 et. seq - actually make possible substantially more attorney general oversight into prosecutorial decisions.)
Under existing federal law, in other words, the notion of a special prosecutor who would be entirely free from political and institutional influence is illusory. Given that fact - and that it is ordinarily an extremely dumb, not to mention unethical, idea to announce investigations - when an administration does announce that it is naming a "special counsel" of any sort, it is largely a public-relations maneuver. The president thereby appears to be committed to the rule of law, but is, in fact, parking an extremely inconvenient problem in a remote and inaccessible lot
I'm one of the people who thought Ken Starr abused his authority and wasted taxpayers' money and our time in his relentless pursuit of Bill Clinton. The Congress let the special prosecutor legislation expire and I was glad.
The law of unintended consequences strikes again.
Yet we can and must not let torture go unpunished. Ms. de la Vega's column discusses exactly how the w administration turned us into something other than the United States of America. Unless and until we hold the architects of that transformation not merely accountable but responsible and subject to the rule of law, we cannot recover -- no matter what we may manage instead -- our essential and defining characteristics.
But we mustn't be sloppy or speed to a false end to the matter, lest we further undermine the kind of nation we want to belong to. It was, after all, the Watergate investigation that ultimately brought us Ken Starr.