The two faces of Patrick Fitzgerald

Scott Horton at Harpers, one of the international go-to guys on the subject of torture, tells a rather interesting story about our own Patrick Fitzgerald, the former Plame special prosecutor. It seems Mr. Fitzgerald is involved in two torture-related cases at the same time.

In one case, he’s investigating the use of police-station torture by the Chicago police. (I know, who’da thought that could happen?) According to the AP, whom Horton quotes, Fitzgerald successfully prosecuted former police Lt. Jon Burge:

A decorated former Chicago police lieutenant accused of suffocating, shocking and beating confessions out of scores of suspects was convicted Monday of federal perjury and obstruction of justice charges for lying about the torture. Former Lt. Jon Burge, whose name has become synonymous with police brutality and abuse of power in the country’s third-largest city, did not react as the guilty verdicts were read.

Horton continues (my emphasis):

A federal investigation concluded that more than 100 victims had been tortured, sometimes brutally, by Chicago police, especially on the city’s South and West Sides, in incidents dating back to the seventies. Although allegations were frequently made, they were routinely batted down by prosecutors as nonsense until students at a clinic at Chicago’s Northwestern University Law School began rigorously documenting the allegations. When Illinois Governor George Ryan ordered a moratorium on executions out of concern over the torture allegations, he found himself the target of a corruption inquiry by local prosecutors, who also took extreme measures to intimidate the law students investigating the torture allegations.

Chicago prosecutors, it seems, were eager to protect the police—and themselves—from the allegations of torture now validated by a Cook County jury. They used all their prosecutorial powers to interfere with and block probes, and sought to criminalize their critics.

The south and west sides of Chicago are the two largest African-American communities. Again, who’da thought?

Pay attention to that part about how prosecutors protected the police by investigating the investigators. In this case, Fitzgerald seems to have acted differently. (Chicago corruption investigations, on the other hand, are notorious for turning up just one perp — as in, just one corrupt traffic judge, just one corrupt city-connected lawyer, and so on — before closing shop and going home. So we’ll see.)

The other investigation that Fitzgerald is involved in includes torture allegations against CIA officials. Horton again (my emphasis):

Fitzgerald is also special prosecutor in an investigation into the involvement of CIA agents in the torture—and occasionally the torture-homicide—of prisoners held in the war on terror. Amazingly, however, rather than the allegations of torture, Fitzgerald is going after the efforts of private investigators, working under the instructions of counsel for the prisoners who were on the receiving end of these techniques. The preposterous theory on which Fitzgerald’s inquiry is premised is official impunity taken to a wild extreme—CIA officers argue that their identities and their involvement in the torture episodes are matters of the highest secrecy, and any effort to learn the facts about them is a crime. In other words, just like the Cook County prosecutors who sought to harass and criminalize those who investigated torture in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald is being charged to harass and criminalize human-rights investigators who have probed the use of torture techniques by CIA agents.

The two faces of Patrick Fitzgerald.

I’ve often thought that “Fitz” (as he was lovingly known during his Plame days), did as much to contain the damage caused by l’affaire Plame–Cheney as to expose it. That is, it could be said that Fitzgerald capped the well at Libby, leaving Cheney tarred, but free.

For me, this story seriously tars Fitzgerald. Good catch, Mr. Horton.

GP


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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