Tuesday, December 24, 2019

so this is xmas....

Torture and the ICC

I lost track of these proceedings and h/o to Robert for the reminder and link.

The chief prosecutor at the international criminal court at The Hague is working hard to get the court to look into the war crimes in Afghanistan. What I learned when I worked at the court is that it is ultimately a bureaucratic/political institution but kudos to the chief prosecutor for pushing this.
Hope dies last and all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

musical interlude

We have a very dangerous president here in the US of A. Today some of our congressional representatives are doing the right thing. Unfortunately too many are turning their heads and looking the other way -- because they are more interested in their personal political fates. So, while we wait for the final vote let me leave you with this:

Monday, December 16, 2019

More on last weeks oral argument at DC Circuit Court

Attorneys Urge Court to Change Ground Rules for Guantánamo Cases
Contact: press@ccrjustuce.org
Without Due Process, Detainees Face Detention for Life, Lawyers Warn

December 11, 2019, Washington, D.C. 
– Today, attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights urged a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling against Abdul Razak Ali (aka Saeed Bakhouch), who has been detained at Guantánamo without charge since June 2002, and to rule more broadly that the fundamental protections of the Due Process Clause apply to detainees and limit otherwise limitless detentions there. Mr. Ali had filed a petition for release together with ten other Guantánamo detainees, arguing that their ongoing detention is arbitrary and unlawful, particularly in light of Donald Trump’s stated policy that no one should be released from the prison regardless of the facts of their case. A lower court held that “the [Constitution’s] due process clause does not apply in Guantánamo,” which attorneys say defies Supreme Court precedent. 
“During the Bush administration, the Supreme Court twice struck down attempts to gut Constitutional protections against arbitrary detention at Guantánamo, but since then the lower courts have made it effectively impossible to win a case in court no matter how weak the government’s evidence is,” said Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Guantanamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who argued today. “Today’s hearing asks the court to finally provide detainees the fair process the Supreme Court envisioned ten years ago.” 
In its landmark 2008 decision in Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court held that Guantánamo “is, in every practical sense, not abroad,” and because of that the right to challenge one’s detention in federal court could not be denied. Today, Kadidal argued that the same principle requires that “due process”—the fundamental substantive and procedural protections guaranteed by the constitution—should also apply at Guantánamo. 
Attorneys further argued that Mr. Ali’s continued detention does, indeed, violate the Due Process Clause. He remains detained—for what will soon be eighteen years—based primarily on an eighteen day stay in a guesthouse in Pakistan associated with a suspected jihadi leader. Today, Kadidal told the court that after this length of detention, the government must demonstrate that there is a continued purpose for detaining Ali, using more reliable evidence than it has produced to date, and meeting a higher burden of proof. 
“My client lost his first appeal six years ago even though, in the words of one of the judges, he ‘never planned, authorized, committed or aided any terrorist attacks,’ because the burden of proof on the government is lower than what’s required in traffic court,” said H. Candace Gorman, a Chicago-based attorney who has represented Ali for 13 years. “If the legal status quo doesn’t change, Ali will die in prison without ever having been charged with a crime.” 
Forty men remain detained at Guantánamo. Twenty-eight of them have never been charged. Twenty-seven were held by the CIA at some point during their detention. Five have been unanimously cleared for release by all relevant agencies (including the State Department, FBI, and the military). 

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Oral Argument Tomorrow

For those of you in the DC area I invite you to come and watch the oral argument in the DC Circuit Court for my client Razak Ali. The issue is simple but also so very important -- does the due process clause apply at Guantanamo?
The argument is set for 930 tomorrow morning and my co-counsel Shane Kadidal from the Center for Constitutional Law will argue for Mr. Ali.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

A disturbing first hand look at the torture program by Abu Z

               For the rest of this article and more drawings by Abu Z (click here)                         (sorry I am having problems copying this so just go to the article...)

                 What the C.I.A.’s Torture Program Looked Like to the Tortured

Drawings done in captivity by the first prisoner known to undergo “enhanced interrogation” portray his account of what happened to him in vivid and disturbing ways.

Credit...Abu              Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux

Sunday, December 1, 2019

From our Friends down under at Justinian....

From Roger Fitch and our friends at Justinian:
Impunity is meanwhile everywhere. In an action viewed as damaging the US military, Trump handed out pardons to convicted and accused US war criminals, though it's hard to see what votes he will get out of it, especially among service members, some of whom dobbed in their lawless officers and NCOs.  
Defence opposed the pardons, particularly that of Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, one of the most vicious convicted SEALs. Trump, responding to a Fox News beat-up, sought to completely exonerate Gallagher, while the Navy tried to expel him from the SEALs. In an extraordinary action, the president personally ordered Gallagher's retention in the unit, and sacked the Navy Secretary. 
What's next? Will Trump pardon the Blackwater mercenaries, convicted and sentenced in the shocking Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad?
Trump's sanctioning of war crimes begs the question, will he attempt to reintroduce torture, a practice he has condoned in the past. It's a timely subject, as a new film about the Senate Torture Report has put the notorious CIA torture program - implemented by George Bush - back in the news. 
Barack Obama effectively pardoned participants in the Bush administration program, with dilatory and cosmetic inquiries conducted while the statutes of limitations - except for murder - ran. We now know that, even had Obama's Justice Department prosecuted and jailed those involved, Mr Trump would have pardoned them, given them medals, and, as he actually has done in the appointment of CIA Director Gina Haspel, rewarded them.  
Trump has also successfully stonewalled the proposed ICC investigation into torture in Afghanistan and other Rome Statute countries where CIA torture occurred; the matter is now under appeal at the Hague. More here on the international efforts to hold accountable those countries implicated in CIA black site torture. 
Read the rest here....

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving....

Today is thanksgiving here in the good old U S of A. A holiday that celebrates the early European settlers making it through a rough period with the help of the native peoples.... then of course we went on to slaughter most of them...

So with that in mind I leave you with this musical interlude.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Update on Donald J. Putin... the book.

When I wrote about this new book two weeks ago it was only available as a Kindle read... Now the paperback is out. https://www.amazon.com/Donald-J-Putin-American-Exceptionalism-ebook/dp/B07ZDNJ4N5/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=donald+j.+putin&qid=1573152622&s=books&sr=1-1

Donald J. Putin on American Exceptionalism : It's Not You, It's Just America Being America by [Putin , Donald J.]

Friday, November 1, 2019

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian....

Barr, Barr, black sheep

Impeachment ... Washington's cast of villains ... William Barr joined to Trump at the hip ... The politication of the Department of Justice ... The president's taxes ... His claims of immunity ... The odious consigliere Rudolph Giuliani ... 150 judicial appointments to do Republican Party bidding ... SCOTUS rallies to partisan causes ... Roger Fitch reports from a strife-torn nation 

Appalling lower court judges are settling in, a cohort of 150 judicial appointments that Donald Trump's rubber-stamp senate has imposed on the creaky American republic. Many of them appear to be unabashed agents of Republican party policy; among other things, they are doing irreparable harm through election law subversions that keep their party in power.
The supreme court is now the bigger worry, with its feared support for heretofore unconstitutional manipulations of government and partisan rightwing causes; some even see an existential threat to US democracy. As the court begins to resemble those in Hungary, Poland and Turkey, the question arises whether it needs to be unpacked (more here) by appointing more justices, perhaps many more
In the term that began in October, cruelty is on the docket and civil rights on the chopping block. Five matters are the focus of attention; these and some others could change the course of history, including the final destruction of the Democrats' signature Voting Rights Act 1965, what's left of it. 
Of particular concern are three cases involving employment discrimination related to sexual preference and gender identification in which the Trump administration is defending the employers.
Other cases consider whether, consistent with the US constitution, a state can repeal the insanity defence in a criminal case, or allow non-unanimous juries, while the Espinosa case presents a grave threat to the constitution's first amendment separation of church and state
There will be more to come, perhaps even nullification of climate legislation, as an alarming new study suggests.
Already, the rogue Republican federal judge from Texas, Reed O'Connor, is teeing up a new case, likely to reach the supreme court, that brings together several strands of the Republican culture wars: a ruling that protections for transgender individuals in the ACA (Obamacare) violate "religious freedom".
It was Judge O'Connor who, in an "off-the-wall" decision, declared the ACA, all of it, unconstitutional, and it was also O'Connor who heavily damaged Native American adoptions by striking down the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Read the rest here....

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Donald J. Putin -- The Book--- A MUST READ!

Our very own Talking Dog now brings us the ultimate book:

Donald J. Putin on American Exceptionalism is THE book the government does not want you to read! If the government actually cared what you read, of course.

Twitter phenomenon (and Brooklyn’s own) Donald J. Putin brings you a satiric (or is it?) composite of the collective knowledge of the current American and Russian presidents (who may, or may not, actually be two people) in a sprawling manifesto that dives right into the issues facing Americans, and answers many of the questions that you have been staring at the ceiling pondering at 3:00 a.m.

● Why are Americans so depressed all the time? (And if you aren’t depressed, there is probably something wrong with you, because you should be.)

● Should we be looking for a new place to live? (Does anyone on the planet still like us enough to let us in? And can we get health care there?)

● If our food sucks so badly, why is it making us so damned fat?

● How come I haven’t had a vacation in so long?

Get the book here.

Friday, September 27, 2019

In Other Gitmo News......

Remember Omar Khadr? The 15 year old canadian kid that was tortured and held at Guantanamo until finally released in 2015? Well he is still trying to have his appeal heard by the military. His attorney finally filed in federal court and the DC Circuit has ordered the military to respond. As usually happens with the military they take baby steps when pushed. The military has now appointed a panel to hear his appeal. Read the rest here.

The (IMHO) notorious Col. Bogdan has landed a cushy job at UNC Charlotte as Vice Chancellor for Safety and Security. That must make the students and faculty feel safe! Read more here.

The periodic review boards have been doing their thing.... which is nothing. More here.

And of course secrecy is still the name of the game with all things Guantanamo, even after more than seventeen years. Read more here.

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian

As everyone knows, the Guantánamo internment camp is a colossal waste of public money, at a cost of $13 million a year per prisoner. Sadly, the people who facilitated it remain unpunished. Seventeen years after the shocking Yoo-Bybee "torture memo", its authors are still enjoying comfortable positions as a tenured Berkeley law professor, and 9th circuit justice, respectively, while their partner in crime, Gina Haspel, has been made CIA director and sanitised by the Wall Street Journal, which often prints John Yoo op-eds.
The results of their gruesome handiwork continue to seep out: declassified CIA cables obtained by the Intercept cast new light on the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the lead defendant in the Pentagon's 9/11 commission. An FBI agent is testifying about CIA "black site" procedures in the related al Baluchi case.
The 9th circuit has meanwhile ruled in a case brought by Abu Zubaydah, a Guantánamo prisoner and the first person subjected to George Bush's "enhanced interrogation". The court held that Zubaydah's ordeal at the CIA's black site in Poland was not entitled to protection as a state secret, paving the way for his lawyers to question the men who designed the torture, i.e. James Mitchell (see below) and Bruce Jessen. Both men have settled civil damages claims in a law suit indemnified by the CIA. 
The 9th circuit called Zubaydah's treatment "torture", but the Pentagon prefers other words for the "tendency to deviate from ethical standards under the pressure of circumstances and in the absence of external oversight". 
In a new directive it's called "behavioural drift", unethical or abusive behaviour "commonly observed in detention and other settings in which individuals have control or power over others' activities of daily living or general functioning".
*   *   *
Waterboard display at the International Spy Museum
Washington has a tasteless new Spy Museum, and two CIA ruffians, the contract "psychologist" James Mitchell and interrogation-tape destroyer José Rodriguez, have contributed audiovisuals for the museum's popular Guantánamo exhibit, to provide a "balanced" view of the CIA's  at times controversial aggressive debriefings.
The museum's exhibits include demonstration water-boards and a mock-up of the house where Osama bin Laden met his extrajudicial end
It's an upbeat American foil to Lithuania's grim "KGB museum", with its Soviet torture exhibit; Donald Rumsfeld made a solemn pilgrimage there in October 2005, as the CIA tormented Abu Zubaydah nearby.
Postscript:  Donald Trump has nominated an actual torture proponent to lead US human rights policy.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019


h/o to Rayne

Friday, September 20, 2019




Jody Thomas's mural of Greta Thunberg, located on a wall in Bristol, England.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The disappearing constitution....

Welcome to September 17th -- Constitution Day here in the good ole U S of A.

Our Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787. ... of course it was another few years before the Bill of Rights was formally added to our constituion (December 15, 1791). Perhaps that is the day we really should celebrate (although those rights are disappearing too and for too many those rights never really existed).

Anyway, back to the disappearing part -- one of the supposed hallmarks of our constitution was the notion of three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) that would "check" and "balance" each other.

Ha. In recent years we have had an executive running the show with both the legistative --- and to a large part the judiciary -- asleep at the wheel. I am not just talking about the Trump administration either and I am not just talking about republicans... although Trump does lead the pack with his executive actions and the republicans in congress have no interest in doing anything but appeasing him. However, this has been a problem for decades and the Obama administration did nothing to stem the tide. Absolutely nothing.

So on this constitution day I ask you to put your fuckin flags away, pick up the constitution (and the bill of rights) read both documents- and start demanding that this country start abiding by those principles.  It would be a start anyway!

$13 million per prisoner....

According to Carol Rosenberg at the New York Times that is the cost of running Guantanamo....

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Holding the Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess as the lone prisoner in Germany’s Spandau Prison in 1985 cost an estimated $1.5 million in today’s dollars. The per-prisoner bill in 2012 at the “supermax” facility in Colorado, home to some of the highest-risk prisoners in the United States, was $78,000.
Then there is Guantánamo Bay, where the expense now works out to about $13 million for each of the 40 prisoners being held there.
According to a tally by The New York Times, the total cost last year of holding the prisoners — including the men accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — paying for the troops who guard them, running the war court and doing related construction, exceeded $540 million.
The $13 million per prisoner cost almost certainly makes Guantánamo the world’s most expensive detention program. And nearly 18 years after the George W. Bush administration took a crude compound called Camp X-Ray and hastily established it as a holding station for enemy fighters picked up in the war on terrorism, it has taken on a sprawling and permanent feel, with the expense most likely to continue far into the future.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Never forget the torture...

Intercept has a new report on the FBI's involvement in the torture program from the get-go.
Read it here.
They also have links to thirteen newly declassified documents related to the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammad. Link is here.

Musical Interlude....

The WHO singing about Guantanamo...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

9-12 (on time) Lest we forget....

9-11 (a day late...)

On September 11th I always turn my eyes to my friend the talking dog. Who, unlike me, was actually in New York City on that day--- and within a block or so of the twin towers. This year technical problems got in the way of posting yesterday.... so with no more ado here is the talking dog.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian....

At Guantánamo, a new "9/11" judge has been considering issues such as:
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri has been unexpectedly passed over for promotion by the Pentagon, possibly for too-vigorous representation of his client.  
The Nashiri case - probably the most lawless of all the commissions - is receiving attention in a new film about the CIA torture program; Nashiri was one of the program's first victims and received the personal attention of the former Thai torture camp commandant - now CIA director - Gina Haspel. 
And finally: it's a bit late in the day, but an Obama-bolstered DC circuit panel has brought back full habeas for Guantánamo internees, more here
Read the rest of Fitch here.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

More on the firing of Rear Adm. Ring

Rear Admiral Ring was fired earlier this year after he made public statements about the need to upgrade the medical facility at the base to comply with Geneva conventions and to accomodate the aging population at Gitmo.

Now the military is claiming that he was not fired because of those statements but because he mishandled classified information.

Since anything embarassing at the base is classified it is not hard to see how they could trump that one up...

Read more here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Appeals court clears way for trial in Abu Ghraib suit...

A federal appeals court has cleared the way for a trial in a decade-old lawsuit accusing a military contractor of responsibility for torture of prisoners at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but one judge assigned to the case warned the ruling could have "dangerous" results.  That one judge was a Trump appointee....

Read more here.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Living in the Shadow of Guantanamo...

A podcase with Mohamedou Salahi that again underscores why leaving Guantanamo does not set you free.
Listen here.

Thursday, July 25, 2019


Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba – The prosecution team in the Sept. 11 case argued this week that the past abuse of the five defendants at CIA black sites does not meet the standard of “outrageous government conduct” that would lead to dismissal of the charges or other serious sanction against the government.

Defense attorneys received more documents about the torture but there is a gag rule so they cannot publicly discuss. "The defense teams have received more than 15,000 pages of discovery about a program that they say subjected their clients to multiple years of torture in violation of U.S. and international law. The latest tranche included instant-messenger chats between personnel involved in the interrogations at CIA black sites.

In a meeting with reporters after Monday’s session, James Connell, the lead attorney for Ammar al Baluchi, said he could not discuss specific details of the chats. However, he referred to them as “depraved.”
Read more here.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

musical interlude.....

Thursday, July 18, 2019

A look at the "secret" world of Guantanamo

The military has for years conducted a dog and pony show for the press -- allowing them to come in and look (at certain areas) and take photos but then censoring the photos. Carol Rosenberg has been attending these dog and pony shows for years, letting the outside world see as much as the military will let her show.

This latest trip is from April of this year-- just prior to the firing of the latest commander. Nothing much seems to have changed since my last visit... you can view the photos here.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The second report---Deprivation and Dispair

As mentioned below there are two new important reports out. This is the second and it looks at the medical care of the detainees (or more precisely, the lack thereof) and the psychological trauma from the years of being imprisoned without charge and with no end in sight.
From the executive summary:

There have been many more such assertions in the intervening years and since. Following an in-depth review of publicly available information related to medical care at Guantánamo—both past and present—as well as consultations with independent civilian medical experts and detainees’ lawyers, the Center for Victims of Torture and Physicians for Human Rights have determined that none of those assertions is accurate. To the contrary, notwithstanding Guantánamo’s general inaccessibility to independent civilian medical professionals, over the years a handful of them have managed to access detainees, review medical records, and interface with Guantánamo’s medical care system to a degree sufficient to document a host of systemic and longstanding deficiencies in care. These include: • Medical needs are subordinated to security functions. For example, prosecutors in a military commission case told the judge explicitly that the commander of Guantánamo’s detention operations is free to disregard recommendations of Guantánamo’s senior medical officer. • Detainees’ medical records are devoid of physical and psychological trauma histories. This is largely a function of medical professionals’ inability or unwillingness to ask detainees about torture or other traumatic experiences during their time in the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, or otherwise with respect to interrogations by U.S. forces—which has led to misdiagnoses and improper treatment. • In large part due to a history of medical complicity in torture, many detainees distrust military medical professionals which has led repeatedly to detainees reasonably refusing care that they need. DEPRIVATION AND DESPAIR: The Crisis of Medical Care at Guantánamo 4 • Guantánamo officials withhold from detainees their own medical records, including through improper classification. • Both expertise and equipment are increasingly insufficient to address detainees’ health needs. For example, a military cardiologist concluded that an obese detainee required testing for coronary artery disease, but that Guantánamo did not have the “means to test” him, and so the testing was not performed. With regard to mental health, effective torture rehabilitation services are not, and cannot be made, available at Guantánamo. • Detainees have been subjected to neglect. One detainee urgently required surgery for a condition he disclosed to Guantánamo medical personnel in 2007—and they diagnosed independently in 2010—but he did not receive surgery until 2018 and appears permanently damaged as a result. • Military medical professionals rotate rapidly in and out of Guantánamo, which has caused discontinuity of care. For example, one detainee recently had three primary care physicians in the course of three months. • Detainees’ access to medical care and, in some cases, their exposure to medical harm, turn substantially on their involvement in litigation. For example, it appears extremely difficult, if not impossible, for detainees who are not in active litigation to access independent civilian medical professionals, and for those who are to address a medical need that is not related to the litigation. For detainees charged before the military commissions, prosecution interests have superseded medical interests, as with a detainee who was forced to attend court proceedings on a gurney writhing in pain while recovering from surgery. These deficiencies are exacerbated by—and in some cases a direct result of—the damage that the men have endured, and continue to endure, from torture and prolonged indefinite detention.

h/o to Shelby

New reports....

There are several new reports that I want to bring to your attention. I hope to have a link to one other report relating to the health of detainees in the next day or so but meanwhile:

This report published at Common Dreams looks at the senate torture report -- which has still not been released (only a redacted summary):

In December 2014, the Bureau, alongside The Rendition Project, began a major project to trace the history of the RDI programme. The impetus for our investigation came from the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture by the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee. The authors of this report had high-level access to internal CIA documents, which they mined to produce a damning assessment of the torture programme's brutality, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. But they were compelled by the Obama administration, and by the CIA itself, to censor — "redact" — all parts of the report that could identify specific times and places where abuses had occurred.
This is important, because without being able to tie illegal activities to specific times and places, the quest for redress is hamstrung, and meaningful accountability — legal, public, historical — remains a mirage.
The Senate report did offer a crucial insight, however: the first complete list of prisoners held in the CIA's black sites. 119 names, each with a date of custody (redacted) and a record of how many days they were held (also partly redacted).
In the days after the publication of the Senate report, we set to work reconstructing this list to reveal the hidden dates. Figuring out a date often meant that we could match it to a flight record; matching to a flight record meant that we could determine where a prisoner was brought from or sent to. As we cross-correlated thousands of data points — from declassified government documents, footnotes in the Senate report, aviation data, records of corporate outsourcing of rendition flights, legal cases, media reporting and NGO investigations — the contours of the CIA's programme of secret detention and torture began to emerge more clearly. Rather than just understanding certain individual histories, we could begin to discern the entire scope of the programme's development.

Key Findings include

•         Identification of the 28 individuals whose renditions were facilitated using UK territory as crucial staging and refuelling posts. This includes the at least two individuals who were rendered using the British-owned island of Diego Garcia: Mohammed Iqbal Madni and Umar Faruq.
•         It identifies the individual to whom the ISC referred as the “unknown detainee” – Umar Faruq – believed to have been rendered through Diego Garcia in September 2002.
•         Included in this list of individuals rendered using UK territory or airspace is Abd Al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was tortured in Thailand among other places while current CIA Director Gina Haspel allegedly ran the black site there.
•         This includes the use of Glasgow airport in the rendition of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, whose torture in Egypt led to the false information which provided part of the case for the Iraq War. The ISC report revealed that an MI6 officer stood by and watched as he was rendered to Egypt in a coffin.
•         Among these detainees rendered with the assistance of UK territory or airspace was Saifullah Paracha, currently the oldest detainee in Guantanamo, who was rendered to torture and arbitrary detention for what has now been almost 19 years.
•         The report lists a total of 28 cases of UK territory or airspace being used for renditions, which compares with the 28 cases the ISC report identified in which it found the UK “suggested, planned or agreed to rendition operations proposed by others”. While the number itself may be a coincidence, the new report raises the question of whether the UK agreed to the use of its territory and airspace to facilitate these renditions as part of these plans and agreements.
•         The report names Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, who faced severe torture after his rendition to Egypt in January 2002, and who may be one of the “29 renditees” referred to in the ISC report as having been rendered to a country believed to be Egypt.

h/o to Robert

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

From Roger Fitch and our friends down under at Justinian

If only Barack Obama had possessed the cojones to prosecute and convict malefactors from the Bush administration for corruption and war crimes, lawless abuses of the "war on terror" and the CIA's torture regime, the Republican brand might have been so badly damaged that the party would have been unable to regroup and gain power under a Donald Trump. Leading party people would have been unavailable, in jail or tainted by disgrace.
The Obama DoJ's cautious approach was to conduct narrow investigations that declined to hold anyone responsible, and allowed Bush villains to emerge unscathed, claim vindication and hold high office again, along with sundry pardoned criminals from previous Republican administrations, e.g. odious neocons like Eliot Abrams.
The preferred instrument for these cosmetic inquiries has been John Durham, a career US Attorney who conducted superficial reviews of CIA misbehaviour at the behest of both the Bush and Obama attorneys general, each time conveniently absolving those involved.
Durham first considered the CIA's notorious destruction of torture tapes, a violation of various laws and court orders that was carefully carried out by the current CIA director, Gina Haspel. Durham's other absolution was even more shameful, letting the CIA off the hook for torture that led to death. The only CIA-related cover-up Durham didn't manage was the exculpation of the CIA's accomplices, the torture memo hacks in the Bush administration, carried out by a DoJ fixer in-house.  
Curiously, John Durham has now been selected by Donald Trump's AG to conduct an investigation where the government desires an incriminatory finding, and it involves both the CIA and FBI.  A cynic might say the CIA faces critical examination for - daring to investigate Trump
If Durham had found wrongdoing in his Bush/Obama investigations, any resulting prosecutions and convictions might have been erased by Trump. Under the uniquely-American practice of a single person setting up the whole government, the president could have proceeded to resolve all staffing problems by pardoning and rehabilitating party operatives that previous governments had convicted and put away.
As it is, Trump continues to pardon undeserving rightwing martyrs, and dodgy businessmen like Conrad Black, who perspicaciously penned an adulatory biography of the president. Having few convicted Republicans left to pardon, the president now seems set on a mischievous course of pardoning accused or convicted US war criminals. More here and here.  
He evidently admires their grit and determination, and has, as a model, Richard Nixon's "patriotic" intervention on behalf of William Calley. There's more history here, and a list of Trump's pardons for crimes he evidently finds acceptable or praiseworthy. 
*   *   *