President Bush may pardon CIA officials involved in prisoner interrogations and the destruction of videotapes showing those sessions, according to Washington insiders.
“I think there’s a real possibility one of President Bush’s last acts very well might be granting immunity to certain CIA employees,” Frank Spinner, an attorney who has defended military personnel accused of prisoner abuse, told the New York Sun.
And Robert Simmons, a former congressman who served with the CIA, believes agents deserve the “peace of mind” a pardon might bring to those implicated:
“Who wants to volunteer to do this kind of work if you’re going to end up in jail or with all your life savings taken away?” he said.
“If you don’t build in some protections for people involved in very difficult, dangerous work, you’re not going to get anybody to do the work and you’re going to end up with a 9/11.”
But Thomas Malinowski of Human Rights Watch told the Sun the pardons could put the Bush administration in an awkward position.
“The problem with a pardon is that it makes it seem that you’re admitting that crimes were committed … I think they want to go down claiming that what they did wasn’t torture and it was perfectly legal.”
What’s more, since Bush personally approved the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, “the person who might be most in need of a pardon is not the run-of-the-mill CIA interrogators, but the president who authorized the treatment,” said Malinowski, a critic of the administration’s interrogation policies.
A retired CIA agent involved in prisoner interrogations asserted on Monday that waterboarding is indeed a form of torture.
And Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden said Sunday the attorney general should appoint a special counsel to investigate the CIA's destruction of videotaped interrogations of two suspected terrorists.
The spy agency's director, Michael Hayden, has told CIA employees that the recordings were destroyed out of fear the tapes would leak and reveal the identities of interrogators. He said the sessions were videotaped to provide an added layer of legal protection for interrogators using new, harsh methods authorized by President Bush as a way to break down the defenses of recalcitrant prisoners.
If Bush does decide to pardon CIA personnel involved in the interrogations and the destruction of the tapes, “one question White House lawyers would have to wrestle with is how to word such a pardon, since the identities of individual interrogators are usually a closely guarded secret,” the Sun observed.
However, while customary, it is not necessary to name the recipients of a pardon.
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