President Obama went to the CIA Monday to assure staffers he was standing behind them even though they had tortured terrorist suspects. Like most everything he does these days, it required a delicate balancing act, and he carried it off about as well as could be expected. Having said earlier that torture would have no place his administration, the president added last week he wouldn't allow agency personnel to be prosecuted for acts approved by the Bush administration. And on Sunday, White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel extended the general amnesty to government lawyers who crafted the harsh interrogation policy.
Clearly, Mr. Obama doesn't want to pick a fight with an agency the support of which he needs in the war on terror. That leaves it up to Congress to demand a full accounting of CIA mistreatment of prisoners.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has called for a congressional inquiry; a good place to start would be with Jay Bybee, currently a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, who was rewarded with that post for the role he played in crafting the legal fiction that the CIA could torture suspects without breaking U.S. or international laws. As early as last January, Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman wrote on the Slate.com web site that the Senate never would have confirmed Bybee for a judgeship had it known he signed off on the incompetent legal reasoning made public in the four Justice Department memos on torture released last week. Read his arguments here.
Congress should impeach Bybee for concealing his role as an enabler in the CIA's misdeeds, and use the inquiry to demand a full accounting of the crimes committed in America's name.
Editorial cartoon by Dana Summers/Orlando Sentinel