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To prosecute or not to prosecute, that is the question. With the release of the Justice Department memos last week detailing the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) used by the CIA, the debate has begun over what to do to those who were involved.

I fully understand the desire of the administration to, as the President said, “look forward and not backward.” We are facing the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression and the President wants the focus to be on getting our economy back on a solid footing. I get that.

But at the same time I believe that the people responsible for the despicable acts described in those memos need to be held accountable. Not only the people who carried out those acts but those who approved and condoned their use.

The reason being that if we don’t hold them accountable it seems to me we are setting a dangerous precedent for (God forbid) a future administration with a vice-president like the Marquis de Cheney.

A vice-president who would have this to say about waterboarding:

I was aware of the program, certainly, and involved in helping get the process cleared, as the agency in effect came in and wanted to know what they could and couldn’t do. And they talked to me, as well as others, to explain what they wanted to do. And I supported it.

And this:

We proceeded very cautiously; we checked, we had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross. The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful, wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal. And any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong.

“Very cautiously” and knowing “where the lines were that you could not cross.” Really? See if you think this sounds cautious and does not cross any lines.

According to the May 30, 2005 Bradbury memo, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002″.

That’s 6 times a day, every day for a month for Mohammed. That’s cautious and not crossing lines?

A couple of conclusions with which I agree. First from Donklephant:

The point isn’t whether or not Mohammed is a bad man. There’s no doubt he is. The point is that we can’t allow ourselves to act just as despicable as him. I mean, Bush said they hate our freedoms, right? Well what happens when we compromise our values to mirror theirs? Doesn’t that make us less free?
And this from Emptywheel:
The CIA wants you to believe waterboarding is effective. Yet somehow, it took them 183 applications of the waterboard in a one month period to get what they claimed was cooperation out of KSM.

That doesn’t sound very effective to me.”

So back to the question, to prosecute or not to prosecute?

Despite the possible loss of focus on economic issues, I see the option of not prosecuting having far greater repercussions than that of going forward with prosecution.