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I was just watching Hardball and the last segment with Jonathan Capeheart of The Washington Post and John Heilemann of New York Magazine was extremely interesting:

Should Obama Investigate Bush Administration for Supporting Torture and Surveillance?

(The teasers had been "Should Dick Cheney Be Tried? Dick Cheney and War Crimes," &c.)

Matthews asked his guests if the Obama administration should see if laws were broken with regard to torture and surveillance?

Jonathan Capeheart began by saying that the truth is important and we need to find out what happened. (And to find out how high up it went, interjected Matthews). Capeheart became visibly uncomfortable, saying the problem is, once the truth is known, then what? Then what?

(There is no transcript and no video clip, so I've done a little transcribing myself.)

Matthews responded: "I have an easy answer. You do to the big people what you did to the little people."

Matthews then turned to Heilemann and said that they took the little people, threatened them with serious sentences and loss of liberty and got them to cop a plea. He then asked: "Why don’t we do the same things to the bosses that told them to do it? If you catch them, if you catch them."

Heilemann concurred, saying that Matthews was making a strong argument, that the only real question was if this would cost Obama politically and Heilemann said that he thought it would and that it would run somewhat counter to Obama's stated objective to look forward. Heilemann concluded, however, "I think justice demands certain things."

And then Matthews stated the real crux of the matter just as clearly as possible:

If waterboarding is torture and torture is criminal, and it came from Cheney’s office, I don’t see why there is a problem prosecuting. If waterboarding is torture and torture is criminal, and it’s been ordered from the top, I don’t see the problem with prosecuting unless there’s a political reason to obstruct it and I don’t think that’s justice.

And that's it in a nutshell. Cheney has already admitted to helping authorize the waterboarding:

Cheney's comments also mark the first time that he has acknowledged playing a central role in clearing the CIA's use of an array of controversial interrogation tactics, including a simulated drowning method known as waterboarding.

"I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared," Cheney said in an interview with ABC News.

Asked whether he still believes it was appropriate to use the waterboarding method on terrorism suspects, Cheney said: "I do."

The bipartisan Levin-McCain Report (PDF) has already detailed that the torture policy came from high-ranking BushCo officials (although it doesn't mention Cheney):

A bipartisan panel of senators has concluded that former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials bear direct responsibility for the harsh treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and that their decisions led to more serious abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.

WaPo

Chris Matthews gets it. We get it. The Republicans sure get it, as they are trying to get Eric Holder to promise that there will be no prosecutions for torture (eh? I thought the Rs maintained that we didn't torture?)

Let me just repeat Matthews' crystal clear formulation of the issue at hand:

If waterboarding is torture and torture is criminal, and it came from Cheney’s office, I don’t see why there is a problem prosecuting. If waterboarding is torture and torture is criminal , and it’s been ordered from the top, I don’t see the problem with prosecuting unless there’s a political reason to obstruct it and I don’t think that’s justice.

Let's get Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. There is already ample evidence to warrant opening investigations. Sign the petition.
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And call your congress critters and let them know that justice demands investigations, regardless of political considerations. The country is ready for sunlight and repudiation of the dark Bush years.

Originally posted to srkp23 on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 04:02 PM PST.

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