Members of the House Judiciary Committee asked attorney general Eric Holder on Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute Bush administration officials involved in decisions that led to torture of detainees held in counter-terrorism efforts. In a letter to Holder, the congressmen write that memos released by the Obama administration last week confirmed that legal justifications for interrogation techniques like waterboarding came from high-up administration officials.
"During your confirmation hearings, you testified that waterboarding is torture," the letter says.
"This letter makes official our views on the necessary procedure in investigating those U.S. officials who allowed or actively instructed others to commit torture," said a statement from Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who along with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) were the letter's principal authors. "Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and, where necessary, to prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture - whether by ordering it or committing it directly."
The five page letter, heavily footnoted, is available here [PDF] (I'm happy to say that my own Rep. Tammy Baldwin signed on as well).
"[T]here can be little doubt that the public interest will be served by appointment of a special counsel," the letter reads. "The authorization and use of interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture has generated tremendous concern and outrage in this country, and has harmed our legal and moral standing in the world."
At this point, I really don't see how how some sort of torture investigation can be avoided. The momentum really seems to be behind those advocating it. Whether there will be a special counsel is another matter, of course. It's likely that Holder will hold off for now, citing an ongoing probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee. After that, who knows?