LIEBERMAN, GOP PREFER TO ‘KEEP WALKING’…. It’s tempting to think conservative lawmakers would be thrilled with the limited scope of Attorney General Eric Holder’s investigation into Bush-era torture. The Justice Department is only looking into about a dozen cases, and will not review the legality of the torture memos or the conduct of anyone who wrote, approved, or followed them.

As investigations go, this one couldn’t be much narrower. Indeed, conservatives should, in a sense, be delighted. Holder has evidence pointing to possible criminal wrongdoing, but the investigation will only hold a very small number of people accountable — none of whom are conservatives’ political allies. It’s one of the reasons leading Democratic lawmakers are disappointed with the announced probe; the investigation just doesn’t go far enough.

Joe Lieberman, who has already publicly endorsed torture policies, doesn’t see it that way.

“I respectfully regret this decision by Attorney General Holder and fear our country will come to regret it too because an open ended criminal investigation of past CIA activity, which has already been condemned and prohibited, will have a chilling effect on the men and women agents of our intelligence community whose uninhibited bravery and skill we depend on every day to protect our homeland from the next terrorist attack. […]

“We cannot take for granted the fact that our homeland has not been attacked since September 11, 2001. That has occurred only because of the constant vigilance and unflinching efforts by those brave individuals in our military, civilian homeland security and counterterrorism agencies, and the intelligence community. These public servants must of course live within the law but they must also be free to do their dangerous and critical jobs without worrying that years from now a future Attorney General will authorize a criminal investigation of them for behavior that a previous Attorney General concluded was authorized and legal.”

Any sentence that starts, ‘Officials must of course live within the law but…” isn’t going to end well.

The complaints went well beyond Lieberman. If the Justice Department pursues evidence of criminal wrongdoing, leading Republican senators and representatives said, “CIA terror fighters” may not be able to do their jobs effectively. Oh, and 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.

It’s better, apparently, to have officials break the law and then have the Justice Department ignore the evidence.

I’m reminded of the argument Peggy Noonan made in April against this investigation: “Sometimes in life you want to just keep walking… Sometimes, I think, just keep walking…. Some of life just has to be mysterious.”

Notice, there’s no real defense for Bush-era actions, either from Noonan or the conservative lawmakers. No one’s willing to say that crimes are acceptable. They’re only willing to say that accountability for crimes is a problem.

Why? It apparently has something to do with walking.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.