NYT to Obama: Appoint prosecutor to investigate Cheney for torture

'These are, simply, crimes,' paper says of CIA interrogation program former vice president championed

On the heels of the Senate Intelligence Committee's blistering report on the CIA's brutal handling of prisoners after 9/11, the New York Times is calling for a criminal investigation of former Vice President Dick Cheney and other members of the Bush administration for conspiring to commit torture and other crimes prohibited by federal and international laws.

"Americans have known about many of these acts for years," the Times editorial board stated on Monday. "But the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality."

In a recent appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Cheney refused to call some of the tactics, including involuntary rectal feeding, torture.

“We were very careful to stop short of torture,” Cheney said. "We worked hard to stay short of that definition."

In its editorial, the Times said the "sadistic" techniques outlined in the committee's report "are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of 'severe physical or mental pain or suffering.' They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture."

"It is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were," the Times continued. "As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal."

The paper criticized President Barack Obama for failing "to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects":

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. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.

The Times' editorial board is calling for a special prosecutor to investigate Cheney; David Addington, Cheney's former chief of staff; former CIA Director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the lawyers "who drafted what became known as the torture memos"; Jose Rodriguez Jr., the CIA official "who ordered the destruction of the videotapes"; psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and any CIA employees who carried it out.

But the paper doubts Obama has "the political courage to order a new investigation," much less "a criminal probe of the actions of a former president."

When asked on "Meet The Press" if he was bothered by the fact that 25 percent of the detainees turned out to be innocent, Cheney was unapologetic.

"I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective ... to get the guys who did 9/11, and it is to avoid another attack against the United States," Cheney said. "We've avoided another mass casualty attack against the United States. And we did capture Bin Laden. We did capture an awful lot of the senior guys at al-Qaida who were responsible for that attack on 9/11. I'd do it again in a minute."

A majority of Americans seem to agree.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that 51 percent of Americans believed the harsh interrogation tactics detailed in the committee's report were warranted, while 28 percent said they went too far.

The results virtually matched a Pew Research Center poll that also found 51 percent believe the CIA's methods were justified, while 29 percent said they were not. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week found that 59 percent approved of the CIA's tactics, while 31 percent disapproved.