Jane and I had a chat yesterday with Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, to talk about his call for a special prosecutor to investigate the torture program. Chairman Nadler was clear: "You don’t have much choice under the law–you have to investigate." The law requires, he explained, that such allegations be investigated. And if warranted, suspected crimes associated with torture must be prosecuted.
Nadler repeated, though, an important point. That the Justice Department, not the White House, must make these decisions. But, since the Department is implicated because of Bybee’s and Yoo’s role in the memos, we should have a Special Prosecutor to conduct the investigation.
As important as are Congressman Nadler’s calls for a special prosecutor, I was just as interested in his discusison about his efforts to introduce some checks on the use of state secrets to avoid prosecution. Nadler has introduced a bill that would introduce a process akin to the CIPA process (used during the Scooter Libby trial), where a judge would review evidence both to determine standing in a case, as well as determine whether substitutions for sensitive national security information could be used to litigate the case.
The bill, Nadler explained, is awaiting a committee hearing. But he is trying to get some support from DOJ for the bill before entering into hearings. Nadler recently met with Attorney General Eric Holder on this and a host of other issues (enemy combatant doctrine, the al-Marri case, warrantless wiretapping, the OPR investigation, as well as the torture memos). And, Nadler says, Holder seemed to agree to the principle, at least, of having some kind of CIPA-like process to state secrets.
Ultimately, Nadler contends (absolutely correctly, IMO), that the government should not be able to dismiss a suit by withholding evidence under state secrets.
Between the Jeppesen Dataplan suit, the Binyam Mohammed suit, al-Haramain and all the rest of the warrantless wiretapping suits, preventing the government from demanding dismissal of a suit because of state secrets would go a long way to ensuring accountability when the government breaks the law.