Ordered Liberty

The Reckoning: CIA Interrogation Investigation Closed Without Further Charges

With the nation’s eyes fixed on Tampa, the Obama Justice Department quietly announced the closure of its much heralded investigation into purported torture, murder, and other war crimes that the Bush-deranged Left alleged were committed in carrying out the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Thursday afternoon, reporting that the investigation was being terminated without charges.

Most of the allegations had been investigated during the Bush years — not by political appointees but by career prosecutors, who after diligent scrubbing determined that there were no prosecutable cases. The 2008 Obama campaign nevertheless accused Bush officials of war crimes. No one was louder on the subject than then-campaign spokesman Holder, who stoked Obama’s base in a speech at the leftist American Constitution Society:

Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution.

Holder promised a “reckoning” for Bush’s “needlessly abusive and unlawful practices” that not only offended “the Constitution and the rule of law” but “made us less rather than more safe.” Having thus passed the audition with flying colors, Holder was named Obama’s attorney general and assured the Senate panel considering his nomination that the CIA had surely committed “torture” in the interrogation program by waterboarding three — count ’em, three — high-value al-Qaeda detainees (with the knowledge of bipartisan congressional leadership, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi).

The enhanced interrogation program yielded life-saving intelligence that enabled the government to prevent a reprise of 9/11-scale domestic attacks despite several attempts. Yet, echoing President Obama, Holder was quick to libel interrogators as torturers even though at the time of his confirmation hearing he had not been read into the actual details of the top secret program or the fastidious guidelines in place to ensure that the crime of torture, as defined by U.S. law, was never close to being committed.

In later testimony, Attorney General Holder was forced to concede that waterboarding, even if it is rougher than what the three detainees were subjected to, cannot be torture if the government lacks specific intent to torture (e.g., the infliction of waterboarding on our own military in counter-interrogation training). Moreover, in arguing a torture case before a federal appeals court, Holder’s Justice Department adopted the Bush Justice Department’s legal theory that the infliction of severe pain would not be torture absent an evil motive — even as Holder pandered to Obama’s base by conducting a “professional responsibility” investigation against the Bush lawyers who developed that well-founded theory. (For a description of the Obama DOJ’s shoddy partisanship in investigating the excellent John Yoo and other Bush DOJ lawyers, see this statement by Miguel Estrada, John’s attorney; see also my NRO post on the letter from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip, slicing and dicing the allegations of DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.)

Obama and Holder recklessly disclosed top secret Bush-era memoranda on enhanced interrogation, thus giving our enemies a how-to manual on resisting interrogation and withholding life-saving intelligence. (Former Attorney General Mukasey and former CIA Director Michael Hayden shredded the administration’s rationale — see here.) Then, Obama and Holder launched their witch hunt against the CIA. At the time, they knew that torture allegations had been responsibly investigated and that the legal likelihood of finding prosecutable crimes against the CIA and other officials was impossibly remote. They subjected our intelligence community to the anxiety of extended criminal investigations, fully aware that the inevitable effect would be to discourage them from taking necessary actions to defend the United States. On the last point, John Yoo put it well:

The men and women fighting this war will understandably respond by becoming risk-averse or paralyzed by uncertainty — the very attitudes that allowed the 9/11 attacks to succeed. CIA agents are taking out group insurance against litigation. Some drone pilots are not re-enlisting because they have little confidence in this administration to defend them. Some special forces officers worry that the president will reveal sensitive operational information, or blow hard-to-come-by intelligence, just to gain a temporary partisan advantage in an election. Worrying about future lawsuits will distort official decision-making, which should balance the costs and benefits to the national interest and not worry about personal liability. No one will ever sue a government official for doing nothing, even as dangers loom.

So now Holder has finally closed down the perilous, abusive investigation that should never have been started. In the meantime, the Obama administration that once savaged President Bush for surveilling American citizens who abet the enemy tells us that there is no problem killing American citizens — with a straight face and without the slightest hint that some apology might be in order. Indeed, though Obama cannot run for reelection on the vast majority of his abysmal record, he does run on the success of the intelligence community and our military in finding and killing Osama bin Laden — a direct result of intelligence derived from the aggressive Bush-Cheney counterterrorism approach that Obama smeared in his last campaign.

In his speech last night — the one under whose cover Holder and Obama tucked news of their witch hunt’s end — Mitt Romney did not mention the current administration’s jihad against the courageous agents who protect us from enemies who seek to kill us by the thousand. He did not need to. He has said more than enough for us to know that in the Romney administration, the Justice Department will be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys. That’s why the Romney administration can’t get here fast enough.