Indulge me, if you will, in some rank speculation about why Obama has taken prosecution of line case agents at CIA off the table.
Imagine that some crazy at the White House (Cheney, Rummy, Addington? I have no clue) wants detainees to be subject to, ahem, interrogation techniques that this crazy believes will work because he has SEEN THEM WORK on his TeeVee! You know, like on "24" and all these cool action movies you can get "on demand" from your cable company?
Sane professionals at CIA hear this "order" and say "no way, that’s illegal and we cannot obey an illegal order." Much to and fro push and pushback, so crazy WH decides to "call the bluff" of sane CIA professionals and says "OLC is the organ that gets to decide what is and is not legal within the the executive branch, not CIA case agents. YOU are out of your lane! (the famous Addington battle cry)."
So WH crazies double dog dare CIA sane people to put a query into OLC describing in great detail what CIA sane people think is so gosh darn illegal. So, CIA General Counsel (who may be merely a messenger or may have colluded with the crazies –I can’t tell) writes up these queries complete with bugs and diapers and every minute detail laid out and sends them off to OLC.
And instead of doing genuine legal research and legal analysis–which would have come to the obvious conclusion that to any literate 3rd grader could see these things were torture, and both morally and legally reprehensible. . . and criminal–the OLC stooges lie–not mislead, not prevaricate, straight out LIE–and write up documents falsely claiming that this is legal.
Sane case officers at CIA get back the word that OLC says, "All the things you say are illegal are, in fact, legal. And they are the experts in what’s legal and you are not, so up yours, do what you have been ordered to do. Oh, and, by they way, you cannot see the memo, or mention that it even exits. No talking about it among yourselves."
This would leave the sane CIA operative with 2 choices: 1) resign at a moment in history when Our country desperately needed all the intel it could get, thereby depriving our country of the years of training and experience the American people had invested in this agent, or 2) do something the agent found to be personally repugnant and hope against all reason that the end would somehow justify the means. Which it never could.
The one and only thing that the Shrub administration has consistently excelled at was in framing decisions and limiting access to information in such a way that normal people found themselves in positions where they believed their choice was limited to figuring out which was the lesser of two evils. Remember Addington kept some OLC opinions locked in his own safe, so no one but him could see them.
I remember the story of the handwritten letter that Jay Rockefeller sent to Cheney, saying that the way information had been classified made it impossible for Rockefeller to consult with experts so that he could make informed decisions on the the Intelligence Committee. I remember Jim Comey talking about not having the information he needed to make an informed decision before issuing a material witness warrant for Jose Padilla. And countless similar stories.
Crazy people at the White House got sane people in the agencies to do all kinds of things by isolating them from competent advice, depriving them of necessary and pertinent information, and just plain lying to them. Perhaps that is what happened to the line officers at CIA?
President Obama’s position regarding those line officers, while I disagree with it, may be a reflection that he believes that they were manipulated and lied to by those they had a right to trust. Further, nothing in his statement yesterday suggests that the brass at CIA, DOJ or WH are exempt from prosecution.
It is my belief that we should start the investigation and prosecution at the top, where the illegal orders, and the lie that they were legal, first came from. As we work our way down the food chain, we can sort out relative culpability.