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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Former Prosecutor Senator Whitehouse Makes the Case for Broader Investigation

In this week's National Law Journal, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse laid out the case for investigating the architects of the torture regime as only a former prosecutor can. The senator, who is a former United States attorney and attorney general for Rhode Island, noted that the investigation ordered by Attorney General Holder is unexceptional. Were high level government officials not involved, there would be no surprise whatsoever at investigating where there is clear evidence of misconduct and wrong-doing. Senator Whitehouse notes, “In America, high office does not put one outside the law.”

The senator also advocates for a broader scope to the investigation, and the need to follow where the evidence leads, including into the conduct of lawyers like Jay Bybee and John Yoo. Indeed, not investigating their conduct could be akin to prosecutorial misconduct. Or, as Whitehouse puts it, “Indeed, it borders on unethical for a prosecutor to refuse to investigate the corpus delicti of a crime because of concern as to where the evidence may lead.”

This is exactly why we are asking Attorney General Holder to authorize a full-scale investigation of those who ordered, designed, and justified torture. The investigation must follow the facts where the evidence leads, not on a predetermined path. It must reject blame-shifting and include the high-level officials who sanctioned and attempted to justify torture, not just the individuals who carried it out. A crime is a crime, whether committed by an ordinary citizen, a CIA officer, or a Justice Department lawyer. The only way to get at the truth is to have an unfettered investigation. We cannot ignore the lawbreaking of senior government officials and thus the systemic problems that led our country astray in the first place.

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