December 9, 2007

Biden Wants To Pass The Buck

Joe Biden told ABC News this morning that the destruction of tapes by the CIA warrants a special prosecutor for the investigation. He reminded George Stephanopolous that he had voted against Michael Mukasey for Attorney General because of his answers on the legality of waterboarding, and that he cannot be trusted to investigate the actions taken by the CIA to destroy evidence of its use:

A Senate Democratic leader said Sunday the attorney general should appoint a special counsel to investigate the CIA's destruction of videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists.

Sen. Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, cited Michael Mukasey's refusal during confirmation hearings in October to describe waterboarding as torture. ....

"I just think it's clearer and crisper and everyone will know what the truth ... if he appoints a special counsel, steps back from it," said Biden, D-Del.

"I think the easiest, straightest thing to do is to take it out of the political realm, appoint a special prosecutor and let them decide, and call — call it where it is. Is there a criminal violation? If there is, proceed. If not, don't," the senator said.

After the history of special prosecutors over the last generation, it's difficult to believe that anyone with two brain cells would ever demand one ever again. Special prosecutors spend millions of dollars, have little accountability, almost always engage in the worst kinds of mission creep, and rarely do anything to take issues "out of the political realm". After the partisan reactions to Patrick Fitzgerald and Kenneth Starr, among many others, that expectation has long since been disproven.

Congress has two Constitutional options when confronted with potential malfeasance by public officials. One, they can insist that the Department of Justice investigate the matter, or two, they can investigate it themselves. If Biden doesn't think Mukasey's DoJ will do a good job, then let the Senate and the House do its own investigation. Democrats complained that the Republicans didn't fulfill oversight obligations when in power. Now they want to abdicate that responsibility when presented with a situation that fairly well screams for it.

Perhaps, though, Biden read the Washington Post this morning. He may have discovered that his own party's leaders failed to see waterboarding as torture until they felt they could gain some political advantage from it. Biden may have had this in mind as he demanded an independent counsel to move the investigation out of the "political realm". It certainly would look odd to have some of the people on those oversight committees get named as those who encouraged the CIA to get even tougher than the waterboard in order to protect American lives. It would eliminate accountability from the equation, at the very least.

No serious Representative or Senator should ever call for an independent prosecutor ever again. Ever. We do not need unaccountable prosecutors no matter how well intended spending years and millions looking for crimes to justify their existence. If Congress doesn't have the guts to do an investigation, then let them stand up and say so.


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