Did Americans commit war crimes by torturing detainees at Guantanamo Bay or at secret prisons scattered around Europe? Barack Obama doesn’t want to know. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was one of many who felt confident he would never face prosecution for his role in constructing legal rationales for waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Unfortunately for Gonzales, Spain intends to go where Obama won’t. Judge Baltasar Garzon, famous chiefly for prosecuting former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet, seems inclined to allow Spanish state prosecutors to go after Gonzales, Douglas Feith, John Yoo, William Hayes II, Jay Bybee, and David Addington. Why these guys and not, say, former Vice President Dick Cheney? Apparently, testimony elicited from Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, last summer before Congress indicated that those six officials were responsible for giving legal justifications for torture. Spanish court documents say of them:
“[W]ithout their legal advice in a series of internal administration memos, “it would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantanamo]…”
If Obama’s Justice Department began investigating these men, Spanish prosecutors would have to back off, but so far it doesn’t look like that will happen. Spain’s actions will likely strain relations with Washington, which will certainly deny extradition requests. Will these men ever be able to leave America again? Do they deserve this prosecution in Spain, or should it be America’s exclusive preserve to determine whether what they did was criminal or not?