Obama’s decision not to prosecute CIA agents who employed torture and illegal rendition is a bad decision. It politicises legal responsibility and does nothing to reinforce the rule of law. Perhaps every single agent who followed orders will be exonerated by these cases, but they ought to face prosecution for breaking the law, even under orders. The Nuremburg defence didn’t play in 1946, and it shouldn’t now.
There’s a simple principle: if someone breaks the law, they should be tested in a court of law as to whether they had mitigating circumstances. If they didn’t, then they should be convicted and punished. This is not so much for what it achieves in these cases, as what effect it will have on future behaviour by CIA agents and their bosses. Not punishing illegal activities now means they will continue to break laws when it is politically acceptable, secure in the knowledge they will be pardoned.
Likewise, both Bush and Cheney and their staff should be prosecuted for breaching laws, the constitution, and international treaties. There’s no principled reason for not doing so, only politics. And I thought we were about changing the old ways in Washington… sure.
Contra Greg Laden.