Monday, April 20, 2009

Zelikow: Obama is "potliticizing" detainee issue with attempt to forestall prosecution

Philip Zelikow makes a simple point about the limits of Obama's authority:
I am not eager to see any government officials prosecuted for crimes because of their zeal to protect their country. But crimes committed for worthy motives are still crimes, and we have institutions to sort this out.

So has anyone beside me found it troubling that President Obama is making announcements on who should be prosecuted for possible crimes? Whatever one's view of the matter, didn't the administration ardently announce its dedication to depoliticizing the Department of Justice? So why is it proper for the president to tell Attorney General Eric Holder what he should conclude?
Zelikow goes on to point out that the only constitutional way Obama can control the ultimate legal fate of those who designed or implemented the Bush Administration's interrogation policies is to issue a blanket pardon.

Update 4/21: It would appear that Obama at least half-agrees with Zelikow (my emphasis):
Mr. Obama said the memos "that were released reflected, in my view, us losing our moral bearings. That's why I've discontinued those enhanced interrogation programs. For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted. With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general, within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that."

1 comment:

  1. Zelikow: "I am not eager to see any government officials prosecuted for crimes because of their zeal to protect their country."

    There is a huge unspoken premise in that statement of giving the benefit of the doubt. Under what basis should we assume these officials were simply overzealous in defense of the country? After all if their (Cheney's, Yoo's, Bybee's) objective was simply to push America as far down a path to torture as possible, they could scarcely have done a better job.