Senator Russ Feingold, who has played a leading private and public role in pushing for an investigation into possible illegalities under President Bush, upped his efforts on Tuesday. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Wisconsin Democrat urged the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into recent revelations about the CIA's Bush-era interrogation program.
"I write to encourage you to do so," Feingold said, "but also to urge you to focus on holding accountable the architects of the CIA's interrogation program. While allegations that individuals may have even gone beyond what was justified by those now-public [Office of Legal Counsel] memos are extremely disturbing, we should not lose sight of the fact that the program itself -- as authorized -- was illegal, not to mention immoral and unwise."
This past week, reports have surfaced that Holder is in the process of deciding whether to appoint a special investigator or prosecutor to look into past interrogation policies. New information about these policies was provided to his office in a classified 2004 CIA Inspector General report. The subject matter is different than the covert program that the CIA reportedly kept secret from Congress at the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney. But for Feingold, it is no less significant.
"As I said in a letter to President Obama in April, the OLC documents make clear that the details of this program were authorized at the highest levels of government, which is where the need for accountability is most acute," the Senator writes. "Those who developed, authorized and provided legal justification for the interrogations should be held responsible."
"I understand this is a difficult decision for you," Feingold wrote, "and I want to assure you that you will have my full support if you take this important step in furtherance of the rule of law."
The full letter:
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