The New York Times is calling for the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute former Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Cheney, over the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terror suspects.
On Monday, in an editorial entitled "Prosecute torturers and their bosses," the paper urged the Obama administration to act on a recent Senate report which asserted that those practices amounted to torture.
"No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable," the editorial board wrote. "At the very least, [President] Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.
"[A]ny credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos," it continued.
"There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen."
The Times said that a 500-plus-page summary report on harsh CIA interrogation methods released earlier this month "erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality."
The controversial report, which summarizes a much larger collection of documents, detailed harsh interrogation tactics employed by the CIA following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including instances of waterboarding, 180 hours of sleep deprivation and forced "rectal feeding" without a documented medical need.
"Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that 'at no time' did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been 'wrongfully held,'" The Times wrote.
CIA Director John Brennan said after the report's release that information gathered during harsh interrogation sessions was useful in preventing more terrorist attacks following 9/11, but he did not attribute the information to the methods themselves.
Several Bush administration and intelligence officials, along with many Republicans, have criticized the report as incomplete or flawed, and some have defended the tactics detailed.
"I would do it again in a minute," Cheney said on Fox News a day after the report was released.
The Times noted that Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainWhoopi Goldberg signs four-year deal with ABC to stay on 'The View' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Meghan McCain: Country has not 'healed' from Trump under Biden MORE (R-Ariz.), who had his arms broken under torture while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has been an exception among Republicans by defending the release of the Senate report.
The editorial comes as human rights groups also pressure the Obama administration to prosecute those responsible.
The newspaper notes a letter sent to outgoing Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderOregon legislature on the brink as Democrats push gerrymandered maps Christie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group Democrats look to state courts as redistricting battle heats up MORE on Monday by leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch calling for "a special prosecutor for torture."
The letter, authored by ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, stated that the Senate report "includes significant new information relating to the commission of serious federal crimes, including torture, homicide, conspiracy, and sexual assault."
They called for an independent and "comprehensive criminal investigation."
The Times noted that it is unlikely President Obama will order an investigation, let alone one focusing on former President George W. Bush.
The newspaper also dinged Obama, saying, during his time in office, he "has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects." The editorial board noted that while the Justice Department previously investigated the CIA for destroying torture footage, no charges were filed.
"Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments," the newspaper wrote.