Congressman Jerrold Nadler is pushing for torture investigations by the legislative and executive branches of government — a new, select congressional committee and a special prosecutor at the Justice Department.
President Obama and Congressional leaders, of course, have been wary of this approach. Yet historically, the exposure of government misconduct has often led to both congressional and independent investigations. Iran-Contra, for example, catalyzed congressional hearings, a presidential commission and a special prosecutor — each working on separate tracks to investigate, take testimony and try to hold some government officials accountable.
Nadler was recently asked about his efforts by MSNBC host Ed Schultz, who observed that Obama does not want to rely on a criminal investigation to "go down this road." Since the OLC memos were released, many observers have wrongly discussed this issue as if it were up to the President. In response, Nadler slices through that falsehood and warns that the White House would be abusing its power if it tried to dictate prosecutions:
I don’t think [Obama] does, but I think he knows that it’s not his right or duty to make that decision. We were very critical of the Bush administration for politicizing the Justice Department in the US attorneys case, and others — for deciding who to prosecute, who not to prosecute, and so forth. It is not up to the White House; it would be an abuse of power for the White House to decide that there ought to be prosecutions or there should not be prosecutions. That’s up to the Justice Department, which is supposed to be independent in these matters. They have to investigate and make the decisions on a straight legal basis where the facts indicate.
Exactly. The entire exchange is worth watching (video below).
After the interview, Schultz takes the issue to a media roundtable, including New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza, who comes out for a criminal investigation regardless of Obama’s other considerations. "I’m with Nadler on this, we gotta find out what happened," he said. Lizza also discussed concerns about CIA morale and interference with Obama’s agenda:
"There’s never a good time to investigate this kind of thing, and sure we could all wait until the war on terror is going to be over to do it, but when is that going to be?"