10/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Do the Torture Investigations Affect Effectiveness and Morale?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney claims that the CIA torture investigations will affect the effectiveness and morale of CIA agents. As to effectiveness, under that theory, police officers should not be investigated for the use of excessive force, because they might hesitate to use it on future occasions. Isn't that one of the very reasons why the investigations are necessary -- in order to deter such conduct in the future. And if there have been violations of the law, should we be concerned that the investigations will adversely affect the morale of those agents not involved? Are there criminal investigations that should not be pursued merely because it will dampen someone else's spirit? Should we ignore or acquiesce in torture, because to investigate it makes some angry or disheartened?

To no one's surprise, Cheney also claims that the investigations have been politically motivated. Politics has played a part in the proposed investigations, but not in the way the former vice-president portrays it. Politics is what has restrained the investigation, not what initiated it. The decision to limit the investigation to low level interrogators "who failed to act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance" (which itself may be illegal) appears to be politically motivated.

As I stated in an earlier post, the president's desire to look forward and the Attorney General's hesitancy to look at the top is understandable and a very tough call. But there can be no doubt now that representatives of the United States engaged in torture. An investigation which closes its eyes to those who authored and authorized it demeans the justice system and our nation. Of course, there will be political fallout, but the Republicans did not hesitate to impeach President Clinton for charges arising out of misconduct of a personal nature. Here we are speaking of potential war crimes -- certainly more serious than lying about an affair with an intern. Recognizing that there can be negative consequences to such an investigation, we must balance what it will do to us as a nation if we fully pursue it against what it will say about us if we do not.

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