Gruesome details of the CIA’s interrogation practices may be on the way. Government lawyers are reportedly meeting tomorrow to consider “accelerating” the release of a long-awaited inspector general’s report that could blow apart the Republicans’ best attempt to underplay the torture issue and to dissuade the White House from pursuing a probe into the Bush Administration’s troubling execution of the so-called War on Terror.
According to an article by Daniel Klaidman published in Newsweek on Saturday, Attorney General Eric Holder may reverse the Obama Administration’s earlier stance not “to look backwards” at potential improprieties and crimes of the Bush Administration. In fact, he may now be leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate “brutal interrogation practices,” in Bush and Cheney’s terror war.
An announcement may come as “in a matter of weeks.” Such a decision, Klaidman writes, “would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months”
Apparently, according to Klaidman, Holder read and was emotionally impacted by the CIA inspector general’s report on interrogation abuses — the one the ACLU has been fighting to get released in full but so far the White House has delayed several times. Now, as Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent reports, government lawyers may be meeting on Wednesday to consider “accelerating its schedule of production.”
The Klaidman piece is mostly a padded profile of Holder (asserting the portrait of a career prosecutor, gently independent of White House politics, loyal to his DOJ roots), but buried inside is the obvious trial balloon (emphasis mine):
As he pored over reports and listened to briefings, he became increasingly troubled. There were startling indications that some interrogators had gone far beyond what had been authorized in the legal opinions issued by the Justice Department, which were themselves controversial. He told one intimate that what he saw “turned my stomach.”
It was soon clear to Holder that he might have to launch an investigation to determine whether crimes were committed under the Bush administration and prosecutions warranted. The obstacles were obvious. For a new administration to reach back and investigate its predecessor is rare, if not unprecedented. After having been deeply involved in the decision to authorize Ken Starr to investigate Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, Holder well knew how politicized things could get. He worried about the impact on the CIA, whose operatives would be at the center of any probe. And he could clearly read the signals coming out of the White House. President Obama had already deflected the left wing of his party and human-rights organizations by saying, “We should be looking forward and not backwards” when it came to Bush-era abuses.
Still, Holder couldn’t shake what he had learned in reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA’s “black sites.” If the public knew the details, he and his aides figured, there would be a groundswell of support for an independent probe.
If this IG report is finally released, un-redacted, it could be the Republicans’ worst nightmare (and Obama’s, if the White House truly is determined to plow through with “domestic priorities” rather than hold the Bush Administration responsible for these alleged crimes). Holder reportedly read a copy of the report twice in June the first time as a prosecutor, “the second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was ‘shocked and saddened,’ he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America’s name.”
We’ll see if the White House, too, is “shocked” enough to follow this through.
UPDATE: Another sympathetic profile of Holder. One wonders.
UPDATE II : Looks like we’re going to have to wait for that unclassified IG report a little longer: Spencer Ackerman is now reporting that the government was granted another delay for its release — until Aug. 24.