There were a couple of reactions to Cheney's appearance on ABC this past Sunday that were right on the money and advance this discussion surrounding his behavior. I wanted to start with Glenn Greenwald who feels that Cheney knows exactly what he is doing...he is taunting the current administration:
In general, people who commit felonies avoid publicly confessing to having done so, and they especially avoid mocking the authorities who fail to act. One thing Dick Cheney is not is stupid, and yet he's doing exactly that. Indeed, he's gradually escalated his boasting about having done so throughout the year. Why? Because he knows there will never be any repercussions, that he will never be prosecuted no matter how blatantly he admits to these serious crimes.
Does anyone doubt that Cheney's assessment is right? And isn't that, rather obviously, a monumental indictment of most everything?
I think that this is sadly quite accurate. Cheney is not a stupid man and it is quite clear that he feels that he can speak freely about his support for what Attorney General Holder has explicitly stated, is torture. The Obama Administration has held true to their pledge to "look forward" and not to the past on the issue of torture, even when it is clear that crimes and have been committed and even when now, a former Vice President admits to supporting torture on national television.
Scott Horton lays out the section of the Federal Criminal Code that Cheney admitted to violating:
Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques. Prosecutors have argued that a criminal investigation into torture undertaken with the direction of the Bush White House would raise complex legal issues, and proof would be difficult. But what about cases in which an instigator openly and notoriously brags about his role in torture?
What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants.
It should be pointed out that not only did Cheney admit to supporting torture, but right at the end of the interview was this exchange (emphasis mine):
KARL: And, finally, I know that you have a reunion coming up later this month with President Bush. This'll be the first time you've seen him since leaving office, face to face?
CHENEY: Pretty much, yes. We talk on the telephone periodically, but the first time I've seen him since January 20th.
KARL: What does he think of you being so outspoken in contrast to him?
CHENEY: Well, I don't think he's opposed to it, by any means. I'd be inclined to let him speak for himself about it. The reason I've been outspoken is because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had -- had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who'd done what we asked them to do.
And that's why I got started on it. I'm the vice president now -- ex-vice president. I have the great freedom and luxury of speaking out, saying what I -- what I want to say, what I believe. And I have not been discouraged from doing so.
Cheney mentions that the lawyers at the Justice Department had "helped us put those policies together" and that he felt it was his role to "defend those people who'd done what we asked them to do." In other words, the Bush Administration wanted to torture detainees and so they asked lawyers like John Yoo and Jay Bybee to craft memos that would allow them to do so. Yoo and Bybee obliged. This is conspiracy to torture and as Scott Horton mentions, a serious crime.
There has been no excuse to investigate for some time now and with the former Vice President's recent comments, there is no justification that the current Justice Department could use to defend not prosecuting those who broke such serious laws.