Enforcing the Laws

So this morning I was reading about how, in a shocking and uncharacteristic development, Dick Cheney took to Fox News to defended Bush era torture policies and criticized AG Holder’s investigation as “political,” (the White House’s administration’s desire to “move forward” apparently notwithstanding). I’m not going to delve into the substance of the argument right now — Cheney basically argues that enforcing the law might discourage future illegal activities (heaven forbid!) — but instead make a related point about something Dianne Feinstein says.

But, speaking on “Face the Nation” on CBS, she warned that “the timing of this is not very good.” She said that her committee was nearing completion of a bipartisan study of interrogation and detention practices and that it should have been allowed to complete its work before a decision was made about an investigation.

Look, bipartisan is not the same thing as nonpartisan, which is how relatively clear violations of the law should be evaluated. So-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” violated the Geneva Convention and in some cases violated laws of the United States. Suspected law breakers, if reasonable evidence exists, should be investigated. If you want to make the case that all politically sensitive acts that violate laws should be treated on an ad hoc basis, then people should say that, but laws exist partly to provide people with a framework for evaluating whether behavior is acceptable. If we decide that the enforcement of our laws should be subject to political expediency, then they aren’t worth much in the first place and won’t do much to discourage activities that have damaged our interests.

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