This week, along with the spectacle of former President George W. Bush bragging on national television about authorizing torture, federal prosecutor John H. Durham allowed the statute of limitations to expire without pressing charges against C.I.A. agents and attorneys who participated in the destruction of videotapes chronicling the interrogations and mistreatment of Abu Zubaydah and Abd a-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Alliance for Justice is extremely disappointed that once again no one in the United States government is being held accountable for criminal acts undertaken as part of the Bush Administration's policy of abusing and torturing prisoners. The decision by Mr. Durham not to prosecute C.I.A. officials who destroyed evidence of detainee mistreatment is yet another example of the government officials involved in torture and other illegal conduct being given a free pass for their actions. We believe that Mr. Durham owes the country an explanation and should release a report of his findings and publicly explain the reasoning for his decision to allow C.I.A. officials off the hook.
Mr. Durham's decision is particularly disturbing in light of the admission this week by George W. Bush that he willingly authorized torture and that his actions were acceptable because a lawyer told him he could do it. Since Nuremburg, the world has understood that lawyers cannot provide immunity for crimes against humanity. We have also come to understand that the lawyers who enable such crimes themselves violate the law and can be prosecuted, whether they work for the Department of Justice or the C.I.A. Each time our government fails to face up to the crimes of its leaders, the United States slips further toward lawlessness and diminishes its hard-won ability to lead the world toward respect for the rule of law and human rights.
In light of President Bush's admissions and with abundant evidence available of egregious and criminal behavior, John Durham and the Justice Department must accelerate and intensify the investigation into the Bush Administration's illegal torture practices. It is long past time for the Obama Administration to take seriously its commitment to uphold the law of the land and bring to justice both the senior leaders who authorized torture and the lawyers who served as their enablers. To do otherwise makes a mockery of the men and women of the military, who, since George Washington, have treated prisoners humanely and of our long-professed belief that the rule of law should guide the world.
Follow Nan Aron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NanAron