Torture Prosecutor Tops 70,000 Questions for Obama on Change.Gov

A whopping 70,000 questions poured into Change.gov
over the past week, in response to the Obama transition team's call for
citizen queries to the President-Elect. After votes from about 100,000
people, the top ranked question asks Obama whether he will appoint a
special prosecutor to investigate allegations of torture and illegal
surveillance by the U.S. government. I've been working with activist Bob Fertik to organize support for the question, and severalprogressivebloggersurged readers and Obama supporters to vote for it last week. Digby, who has written extensively about the Bush administration's abuse of the rule of law, recently reported on the progress:

I wrote a post about [an] initiative spearheaded by Ari Melber of The Nation and Democrats.com
to ask President-elect Obama if he will appoint a special prosecutor to
investigate war crimes in the Bush administration over at Change.gov.
(In a previous round, it was the sixth most asked question...) This
time, through their efforts, it's number one. This is particularly
important, since the press has only asked Obama about this one time,
last April. And a lot has happened since then, most obviously the fact
that Vice President is all over television admitting to war crimes as
if he's proud of it.

Then The New York Timespicked up the news:

[T]he number one submission on the popular "Open for
Questions" portion of the site might seem more than a little impolitic
to [President Bush]: "Will you appoint a Special Prosecutor -- ideally
Patrick Fitzgerald -- to independently investigate the gravest crimes
of the Bush Administration, including torture and warrantless
wiretapping," wrote Bob Fertik of New York, who runs the Web site,
Democrats.com.

Though the Obama team has promised to answer some of the top
questions as early as this week, they have not said whether they will
respond to Mr. Fertik's, which has received more than 22,000 votes
since the second round of the question-and-answer feature began on Dec.
30. The site logged more than 1.5 million votes for 20,000-plus
questions... The second highest-ranked submission, which is about
oversight of the nation's banking industry, is several thousand of
votes behind the query about a special prosecutor. Mr. Fertik's
question has been pushed to the top, in part, by a coalition of liberal
bloggers...

The national press corps has not raised this issue with Obama since his victory. (When it surfaced in April,
Obama said he would order his attorney general to "immediately review"
the potential crimes.) And while the leading question in the last Change.gov forum was dispatched breezily -- Will you legalize marijuana? No. -- this one is far more challenging, both substantively and politically.

The Times notes that Obama's team has "not said" whether it
will even answer Fertik's question, though ignoring the question that
came in first out of 74,000 would turn this exercise into a farce. A
terse, evasive answer would be similarly unacceptable. After all, there
would be little point in this online dialogue if it reiterates things
we already know, (Obama is not in N.O.R.M.L.), and refuses to provide new information.

That's why this may be the first big test for Change.gov as a genuinely interactive dialogue.

Thousands of Americans are asking whether President Obama will order an
independent investigation to ensure our laws are enforced -- in an era
when powerful people
in government have engaged in criminal conduct and relentlessly tried
to make their behavior off limits for media and political discussion.
We expect a "yes," "no" or detailed explanation of how and when Obama
and his aides will make this decision. Time is running out, of course,
because the question must be answered, for Congress and the public,
before Eric Holder's confirmation hearing. He must explain how he will
restore independence, professionalism and the rule of law to a Justice
Department that politicized U.S. attorneys and covered up torture and
warrantless surveillance.

Law professor Jonathan Turley, a nonpartisan legal analyst who testified before Congress in favor of President Clinton's impeachment, recently explained
that Holder simply should not be confirmed if he is not prepared to
enforce the laws banning torture. "Eric Holder should be asked the same
question that Mukasey refused to answer in his confirmation hearing: is
waterboarding a crime?" Professor Turley stated. "If he refuses to
answer or denies that it is a crime, he should not be confirmed. If he
admits that it is a crime, he should order a criminal investigation."
According to Change.gov, the crowds agree with the experts on this one.

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