Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday appointed a prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate alleged prisoner abuse by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators. Holder said the investigation was "preliminary," but the move intensified an already bitter battle over whether to punish intelligence officials for how they carried out Bush-era counter-terrorism policies. (Los Angeles Times)
What the commentators said
The Obama administration had no choice, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. President Obama has assured the world that "the worst abuses -- waterboarding, indefinite detention, Abu Ghraib -- will not happen again." But Obama also has "a legal and moral duty to determine whether crimes were committed" in the Bush-era interrogation of "war on terror" prisoners -- "and, if so, to prosecute those responsible."
This is a terrible time to be a CIA agent, said Paul Mirengoff in Power Line. The prosecutor, John Durham, has investigated the alleged destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, so "it's likely that he already has it in for CIA interrogators." CIA Director Leon Panetta tried to rally his troops after Monday's release of a 2004 report on interrogations by pointing out that Bush-era techniques yielded life-saving information. Eric Holder and Barack Obama don't get it, but at least Panetta recognizes that "injuring the CIA is a bad thing."
The real victim of the interrogation investigation could be Obama's legislative agenda, said Julie Mason in the Washington Examiner. The decision will create "a political maelstrom in Congress," playing "havoc with Obama's efforts on health care reform," and making for "tricky calculus" in winning support for his war strategies. And it may all be for naught -- investigating whether interrogators committed crimes is easy, but convicting people who were doing what their superiors told them to do will be a lot harder.