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As part of the Congressional system of checks and balances, Presidents are allowed to grant pardons. The system actually went into effect in 1887, during the presidency of Grover Cleveland. The system came from a report to Congress, which set in place a "Pardon Clerk" in the AG's office, who would review, make recommendations, and send them along to the President for action.
While people requesting pardons were certainly criminals, this system was put into place in case the conviction was wrong, or if the punishment was far too harsh for the crime.
We all know about the clemency of Scooter Libby, and polled on whether Bush will grant him a full pardon in the waning days of the administration. (And you know how sublime it feels to say that. So I'll say it again: "the waning days of the administration." Sorry, I digress!)
What you might not know is that Baby Bush has granted fewer total pardons than any other president except Papa Bush.
The question now is whether or not Baby Bush will pardon people involved in torture. While these people have not yet been charged with a crime, if President-elect Obama closes Gitmo, the corollary action may well be to launch an investigation into what happened to have allowed for the situation that exists there. That investigation will certainly conclude that members of the Bush administration, and their minions, tortured people, many of whom were innocent of any crime. It may be a Federal investigation, or the process could start when civil cases are brought by people released from Gitmo, cleared of all charges.
If Bush pardons everyone involved, would he include Rumsfeld, Cheney, Mukasey, all high-ranking military, and himself? (Even Nixon didn't pardon himself.) And would that preclude all potential investigations and criminal charges?
We are familiar with the legal tenet of Double Jeopardy. That is, one cannot be charged a second time for a crime for which one has been found innocent. However, it is sometimes possible to find a way to charge for a secondary crime. It's all in how the original charges were filed. So the question becomes: can Baby Bush find a way to grant some sort of blanket pardon which covers all potential charges? And if he did so, would that be a public admission that his administration was guilty of crimes we may not even know about yet?
Take the Prince of Darkness. Go all the way back to 2001, and the Task Force which allowed for the Executive Orders related to energy projects, oil and gas exploration on public lands, and nuclear power. We still don't know who was on the Task Force nor what Dick got from them for the EO. Can Baby Bush pardon the Prince for his utter disregard for the Office of the Vice President? Can he preclude us from knowing what Dick did from that "unknown bunker location"?
Personally, I'm hoping that no matter what happens domestically, the world holds a tribunal court similar to Nuremberg. Crimes against humanity.