The details in the Senate report on Central Intelligence Agency torture, released today, are shocking. But don't expect anyone to be held responsible. The only person the Obama administration has prosecuted in connection with the torture program is a man who revealed its existence to the media.
Much of the information in the report is new to the public, but a lot of it would have been uncovered during a detailed torture investigation Attorney General Eric Holder conducted during President Obama's first term. After carefully examining the evidence, Holder decided not to prosecute anyone for the CIA's torture. "The department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt," Holder said when he dropped investigations into two torture-related deaths in 2012.
That seems consistent with Obama's own views on the subject. Asked about investigating CIA torture in 2009, Obama replied that "it’s important to look forward and not backwards." Obama admitted that "we tortured some folks" earlier this year, but he didn't call for those responsible to be punished.
But the Obama administration has had a different attitude when it comes to those who revealed the existence of the CIA torture program. In 2012, the Obama administration charged former CIA official John Kiriakou for leaking classified information related to the torture program to reporters. Threatened with decades in prison, Kiriakou was forced to plead guilty and accepted a 30-month prison sentence. He's in prison right now.
Obama has vowed to "use my authority as president to make sure we never resort to those methods again." But prosecuting people who revealed the program, instead of the people responsible, makes it more likely that abuses like this will happen again.