The Obama administration will not prosecute CIA officers who participated in harsh interrogations that critics say crossed the line into torture, CIA Director-nominee Leon Panetta said Friday. ...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.
The illegality has been established. The interrogators were competent people capable of understanding the law, and are co-culpible alongside the walking excrement that occupied the White House from 2001 to 2009. These are not grunts like Lynndie England.
"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...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.
...Panetta told the committee that the Obama administration will continue to hand foreign detainees over to other countries for questioning, but only if it is confident the prisoners will not be tortured in the process...some former prisoners subjected to the process — known as "extraordinary rendition" — during the Bush administration's anti-terror war contend they were tortured. Proving that in court has proven difficult, as evidence they are trying to use has been protected by the president's state secret privilege.
Translation: The game has been stacked against justice (little j not DOJ) all along, and that's not going to change. Maybe Obama even means it when he says (in essence) "it won't happen again," but even if that were true, it means, on balance, a net negative for justice if nobody is held accountable. But it's more than just that. Democrats tend to be very pro-international law and pro-human rights legal regimes when they are academics, law professors, and "outsider" activists. When they end up in the White House, a lot of that ends up getting tossed out of the car somewhere between Ohio and Virginia. Obama should just be honest and say that his election has not changed, will not change, the fact that if you're powerful enough you can hurt and kill people. He should just tell people to suck it up.
One complicating factor in Panetta's evasion: If, as Brad Friedman points out, Eric Holder's answers to questions about waterboarding commit him to prosecuting Bush administration officials, then Holder and Panetta are somewhat at odds, although I am pretty sure how that will be resolved.