“Pardons would make clear that crimes were committed; that the individuals who authorized and committed torture were indeed criminals; and that future architects and perpetrators of torture should beware ... Prosecutions would be preferable, but pardons may be the only viable and lasting way to close the Pandora’s box of torture once and for all.”To which we offer a highly conditioned "Bravo!" Conditioned, because it is our sentiment that half-hearted, vindictive, show-boating / partisan use of the pardon power is no way to approach a subject this serious. Indeed, we called for a more sweeping, but more intelligent, balanced approach in this post on December of 2008:
National Review features a lengthy editorial on the current spin regarding "torture" during the Bush administration. The first two paragraphs generally neutralize every "reason" we have heard submitted to "expect" President Bush to issue unprecedented-preemptive-blanket-self-(and every other dramatic qualifier we can think of ) pardons:
In September 2002, senior leaders on the Senate and House intelligence committees — Democrats and Republicans — began receiving briefings on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program,” including the use of waterboarding on top al-Qaeda operatives. Among the leaders briefed was Nancy Pelosi, now speaker of the House. The lawmakers raised no objections. According to Porter Goss, a congressman at that time and later head of the CIA, their chief concern was whether “the methods were tough enough ...”See full editorial here. Or, if one would prefer the Washington Post:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said. "The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
... With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003
... The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) ..The Post also noted that it was "only after information about the practice began to leak in news accounts in 2005 -- by which time the CIA had already abandoned waterboarding -- did doubts about its legality among individual lawmakers evolve into more widespread dissent." Which is to say Democratic sensitivities and opposition required an audience and an upcoming election! See Post article here.
So, PardonPower says let show-trials and pseudo-investigations begin! What did Pelosi and her fellow Democrats know, and when did they know it? Why did they approve of war crimes once they were aware of them? How should the Speaker of the House be punished for her direct involvement in approval of torture? What role did other Democratic leaders play in clear violations of international law?
Paul, at PowerLine says it best:
To my knowledge, no charges were brought, but CIA personnel who helped protect America in a time of great danger had to lawyer-up again (the DOJ had already considered bringing charges once) and endure a politically motivated inquisition. Now, they must endure a report from Dianne Feinstein and her follow Democrats that is more about excusing Feinstein and others from their sign-off on what the CIA did than about presenting the truth (link).