We're sorry, but Obama's making a mistake saying he can envision prosecutions of Bush administration personnel in connection with torture allegations.
Nothing good will come out of it, and a lot that is bad could.
We don't, by any stretch, condone the most extreme methods the Bush administration ultimately used to interrogate some prisoners. But let's step back a minute and get some context.
On September 11, 2001, approximately 20 middle eastern men operating under the influence of a radical form of Islam, killed 3000 Americans, destroyed the World Trade Center towers, tried to destroy our Capitol building and attacked the Pentagon. They got away with it, in part, because despite some credible leads, our law enforcement agencies acted too cautiously.
This was no small event, and it opened everyone's eyes to the fact that these same terrorists would--if they could--do something even bigger and more destructive, including unleashing a weapon of mass destruction in an American or European city.
These are not people to take lightly. They are not dope dealers on the corner.
The Bush administration may have overreacted in some senses, but not by much; and overreacting was better than underreacting.
Furthermore, any effort to prosecute individuals will, inevitably, sweep up the wrong people. The two most culpable are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Do you really think they are going to be prosecuted? Of course not.
Going after lower level people will only make CIA officials, FBI officials, military officials and law enforcement officials overly cautious and legalistic when greater action may be necessary to protect our nation. It will also punish people who, in good faith, believed they were lawfully doing the right thing, and who were pressured from above. Even investigating them and threatening prosecution is problemmatic because it forces everyone to "lawyer up" at great expense.
Here's what should happen: Obama should grant clemency to any government employee who was involved in government sanctioned activities that could be construed as torture in the Bush administration. In exchange, those persons should be required to cooperate and testify with investigators to determine exactly what happened--not with the intention of punishing anyone, but rather with the intention of deciding what, in the future, is lawful, and what is not.
We should not be out for blood on this; we should be out to learn the facts and engage in reform.