Holder says 'no one is above the law' as calls for special prosecutor mount
Hours after being presented with more than a quarter million signatures demanding that he appoint a special independent prosecutor to investigate Bush-era torture practices, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that "no one is above the law" and that his department would "follow the evidence."
He did not commit to appointing a special prosecutor.
That lack of commitment from the nation's top law enforcer isn't what a coalition of groups advocating an immediate torture investigation were hoping to hear. Wednesday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union, Moveon.org, Democrats.com, Firedoglake.com and other groups met Holder outside of a House committee room, where Holder was scheduled to testify, and presented him with petitions, the ACLU announced.
"Given the substantial amount of new torture evidence presented to Americans over the past week, the Justice Department is obligated to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate these crimes," the ACLU said in a press release.
A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the organization led to the release last Thursday of four Bush administration "torture memos," which have given rise to calls for prosecution of the Justice Department lawyers who wrote those memos.
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, called Holder's comments Wednesday "encouraging."
"It is encouraging to hear the attorney general state that the Justice Department will fulfill its most basic mandate of enforcing the law... To fulfill the Department's essential role as enforcer of the nation's laws, Attorney General Holder is compelled by his oath of office to initiate investigations of those who authorized, legally sanctioned and carried out unlawful acts of torture that have been a stain on our nation's name and its commitment to human rights and the rule of law."
Tuesday, President Obama said Holder will be the person who ultimately decides whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote opinions providing a legal basis for interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture.
Last Thursday, Obama said CIA agents who employed the techniques would not be prosecuted. Earlier this week he appeared to leave open the possibility that officials who created the policies allowing those agents' actions could be prosecuted.
Speaking on MSNBC Tuesday night, law professor Jonathan Turley said that an independent special prosecutor is crucial for investigating all officials involved in the creation of the CIA's interrogation practices.
"In the last week or so, we've seen an effort to define a potential investigation in terms of the lawyers who wrote these memos," Turley said. "A war crime investigation does not look at the people who drove the trains -- they look at the people who told the trains to roll. "George Bush and Vice President Cheney, the CIA director, the attorney general...implemented, in full knowledge that it was a war crime, the torture program."
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