Torture Prosecutions and Obama's Radical Political Agenda

And when it comes to national security, even the pleas of CIA Director Leon Panetta don’t carry much weight. It was only a week ago that Panetta took to the op-ed page of the Washington Post to implore that we cease the witch hunt against our intelligence community. He wrote:

Intelligence can be a valuable weapon, but it is not one we should use on each other. As the president has said, this is not a time for retribution. Debates over who knew what when -- or what happened seven years ago -- miss a larger, more important point: We are a nation at war in a dangerous world, and good intelligence is vital to us all. That is where our focus should be. The CIA has plenty of tools to fight al-Qaeda and its allies. Unlike the effort I canceled in June, our present tools are effective, we use them aggressively to go after our enemies, and Congress has been briefed on them.

When President Obama visited the CIA in April, he told agency officers, "I am going to need you more than ever." The men and women of the CIA truly are America's first line of defense. They must run risks and make sacrifices to acquire the intelligence our country needs for its safety and security. Having spent 16 years in the House, I know that Congress can get the facts it needs to do its job without undue strife or name-calling. I also know that we can learn lessons from the past without getting stuck there. That is what the American people expect. The CIA is ready to do its part. The nation deserves no less.

But that apparently does not reflect the thinking of Holder or the president. To pretend that Holder “has no choice” or that the Justice Department is “obligated” to go forward with this prosecution requires that one ignore both the law and the facts at issue entirely and pretend that, at bottom, this is not a policy decision. The president has a choice as he described it: look back or look forward.

We either have a rogue Justice Department, operating on flimsy legal ground and contrary to the views of the president, or a Justice Department which is carrying out precisely the policies -- from voter rights to CIA prosecution -- which the White House desires. In either event, we have once again seen what happens when a radical political agenda overtakes the Justice Department.