As the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War passes, its architects are close to being in the clear for good, Elizabeth Holtzman writes via the Nation:
A critical deadline is fast approaching without attracting much notice. Statutes of limitations applicable to possible crimes committed by former President George W. Bush and his top aides, with respect to wiretapping of Americans without court approval and to fraud in launching and continuing the Iraq War, may expire in early 2014, less than a year from now. Since no prosecutions can be brought after the statutes run out, unless investigations are started soon, any crimes that did occur will go unprosecuted and unpunished, deeply entrenching the principle of impunity for top officials.
President Bush has publicly admitted to authorizing wiretaps of Americans on more than thirty separate occasions without a court order, an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Assuming that the warrantless wiretapping ended when Bush left office on January 20, 2009, the statute would run out on January 20, 2014.
President Bush and his team may have also violated the Conspiracy to Defraud the United States statute, which was used to prosecute top officials in the Watergate and Iran/Contra scandals. Together with others in his administration, he made many misstatements to Congress about the Iraq War.
The attorney general does not need Congressional approval to appoint a special prosecutor. Nor can political opponents prevent it. President Obama, however, has said that he wants to look forward and not back, and, given the enormous hostility of the congressional Republicans to his existing agenda, it is understandable his attorney general might want to avoid the partisan animosity appointing a special prosecutor would generate.