Some commenters took issue with my immunity post, suggesting I was concerned about "blackmail" by the CIA, so I feel like I should explain what I mean. I don't think that CIA agents will "go Galt" if interrogators are prosecuted. I also probably shouldn't have described Obama's decision to grant immunity to some CIA agents as "right," so much as I think it's probably the best way to handle this. At any rate, I certainly understand why other people disagree.
From my standpoint, the most devastating intelligence failures of the past ten years, 9/11, the war in Iraq, have a great deal to do with the relationship between intelligence services and the White House. I also think it's been somewhat easy for us to hold the people on the ground culpable for policies that were ordered from the top. The only people who were ever held accountable for Abu Ghraib were low-level military. The Bush administration was never held accountable. In this case, the Office of Legal Counsel told CIA interrogators that certain things were legal. In some cases, the interrogators may have gone beyond what was allowed by the OLC, and they weren't given that same immunity. Kevin Drum has a few more reasons, including the feasibility of prosecutions.
In the end, I just think it's far more important to go after the people who enabled these policies, who wrote incredible legal rationales for why certain kinds of torture weren't torture, or rather how they weren't torture because we were using them. It was the OLC's responsibility to say no, to say this wasn't legal, and to prevent it from happening. Instead they encouraged it. Ultimately, I just think they're far more culpable, and they're the ones any effort to prosecute should be focused on.
-- A. Serwer
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