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Obama Opens the Door to Prosecution of Interrogation Memo Authors

President Obama addressed questions today about prosecuting the authors of Bush Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos on enhanced interrogation techniques during a media availability with King Abdullah II of Jordan:

Q: I want to ask you about the interrogation memos that you released last week; two questions. You were clear about not wanting to prosecute those who carried out the instructions under this legal advice. Can you be that clear about those who devised the policy? And then quickly on a second matter, how do you feel about investigations, whether special -- a special commission or something of that nature on the Hill to go back and really look at the issue?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the -- look, as I said before, this has been a difficult chapter in our history, and one of the tougher decisions that I've had to make as president. On the one hand, we have very real enemies out there. And we rely on some very courageous people, not just in our military but also in the Central Intelligence Agency, to help protect the American people. And they have to make some very difficult decisions because, as I mentioned yesterday, they are confronted with an enemy that doesn't have scruples, that isn't constrained by constitutions, aren't constrained by legal niceties.

Having said that, the OLC memos that were released reflected, in my view, us losing our moral bearings. That's why I've discontinued those enhanced interrogation programs.

For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it's appropriate for them to be prosecuted.

With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.

As a general deal, I think that we should be looking forward and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively, and it hampers our ability to carry out critical national security operations.

And so if and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period, I think for Congress to examine ways that it can be done in a bipartisan fashion, outside of the typical hearing process that can sometimes break down and break it entirely along party lines, to the extent that there are independent participants who are above reproach and have credibility, that would probably be a more sensible approach to take.

I'm not suggesting that that should be done, but I'm saying, if you've got a choice, I think it's very important for the American people to feel as if this is not being dealt with to provide one side or another political advantage but rather is being done in order to learn some lessons so that we move forward in an effective way.

And the last point I just want to emphasize, as I said yesterday at the CIA when I visited, what makes America special in my view is not just our wealth and the dynamism of our economy and our extraordinary history and diversity. It's that we are willing to uphold our ideals even when they're hard. And sometimes we make mistakes because that's the nature of human enterprise. But when we do make mistakes, then we are willing to go back and correct those mistakes and keep our eye on those ideals and values that have been passed on generation to generation.

And that is what has to continue to guide us as we move forward. And I'm confident that we will be able to move forward, protect the American people effectively, and live up to our values and ideals. And that's not a matter of being naive about how dangerous this world is. As I said yesterday to some of the CIA officials that I met with, I wake up every day thinking about how to keep the American people safe. And I go to bed every night worrying about keeping the American people safe.

I've got a lot of other things on my plate. I've got a big banking crisis, and I've got unemployment numbers that are very high, and we've got an auto industry that needs work. There are a whole things -- range of things that during the day occupy me, but the thing that I consider my most profound obligation is keeping the American people safe.

So I do not take these things lightly, and I am not in any way under illusion about how difficult the task is for those people who are on the front lines every day protecting the American people.

So I wanted to communicate a message yesterday to all those who overwhelmingly do so in a lawful, dedicated fashion that I have their back.

Posted at 1:15 PM ET on Apr 21, 2009  | Category:  Primary Source
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I think that it has been interesting following this story as it has developed. http://www.newsy.com/videos/not_above_the_law/ has coverage from various news outlets that look at what the Obama administration has been saying and how they have changed their tune. A very interesting watch.

Posted by: Mizzoutiger1 | April 22, 2009 5:23 PM

If you read the whole text of the President's statement in this article it seems like he goes on and on without saying anything and he is only restating the problem and summarizing both sides of the issue without making a committment either way.

That was his stock in trade during the campaign. When he was asked a question, he would only restate the problem posed in the question and not offer a solution. The election is over and he won so I think he should feel like he has a lot more freedom to be more specific instead of constantly being in cautious campaign mode.

Basically the more strident people who are pressuring President Obama are advocating investigating and possibly prosecuting the individuals mentioned in the article for offering a legal opinion on an issue that has a lot of grey areas. Are we sure we want to go in this direction?

At any rate, the President should step up and show some leadership. I think he knows that it is not in his or the country's interest to keep looking back at the policies of the Bush Administration but it appears that he either wants this to change the subject or is being pushed around by others and does not want to do anything to offend his more strident supporters.

In short, he is just voting present again.

Posted by: danielhancock | April 22, 2009 3:45 PM

Soooo...

Just where does throwing $Trillions to Criminal Bankers-Who SHOULD be getting Jail;

while leaving Millions like myself dreaming of getting a few $Thousand to avoid losing what little we have left-and NOT getting ANYTHING;

fall in the scope of "Torture"?

"Moral Conscience"?

Gimme a Break!

No, REALLY O'Bomba-Nation!

Please!

Please give ME a Break!

No Charity, no Welfare!

How about a $10,000 LOAN-I'll pay back!

$500 Billion would allow the Government to do it FIFTY MILLION TIMES!

LOL! (Dryly) $4 Trillion for the Banks!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 21, 2009 6:12 PM

TEAM OBAMA: How about the Bush-Era HOMELAND TORTURE?


Bush-Cheney- spawned torture is NOT just a foreign affair.

The "Extrajudicial Punishment Network" it created or expanded enables citizen vigilantes affiliated with federally-funded volunteer public safety groups and organizations to stalk, harass, terrorize -- and YES, torture.

Please, White House staff, read this. Your Bush holdovers already know all about it.

What have they told YOU?


http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 21, 2009 5:33 PM

"O'Bomba is the Worst thing that ever Happened to this Country!"
Saint---The
--------
Oh, I agree with you and Dick Cheney, more of the memos should be released, let's shine the light on it. Kind of defeats the argument that it endangers our national security though doesn't it?

Take this into consideration, you say Obama is the worst thing..blah...blah...blah:
If the United States had never tortured, then we wouldn't be having this debate right now would we?

If the economy hadn't collapsed under Bush, then we wouldn't have had to take the measures we've taken now would we?

And if GW would have listened to the 42 explicit warnings from the top level intelligence officers, we may not have had 9/11 now would we?

Would we?

Posted by: JRM2 | April 21, 2009 5:00 PM

JRM2-You lost a Hundred Benefit Points for that one!

If you feel that by being successful we, the US sows the Seeds of our demise;

just where does that put Saudi Arabia, Brunei, UAE, Kuwait, and Iran (Theocrats)?

No, the Twisted Mindset of al-Quida is a perversion of the worst sort!

And, I mention Mexico's Jails as a group the Media would do us all a big favor in getting the light on, more than some POS Terrorist's "Trauma"!

As is being discussed on a different thread;

What was released was ONLY the part Politicians releasing it, WANTED released;

For Partisan Political Reason!

O'Bomba is the Worst thing that ever Happened to this Country!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 21, 2009 3:54 PM

JRM2-You lost a Hundred Benefit Points for that one!

If you feel that by being successful we, the US sows the Seeds of our demise;

just where does that put Saudi Arabia, Brunei, UAE, Kuwait, and Iran (Theocrats)?

No, the Twisted Mindset of al-Quida is a perversion of the worst sort!

And, I mention Mexico's Jails as a group the Media would do us all a big favor in getting the light on, more than some POS Terrorist's "Trauma"!

As is being discussed on a different thread;

What was released was ONLY the part Politicians releasing it, WANTED released;

For Partisan Political Reason!

O'Bomba is the Worst thing that ever Happened to this Country!

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 21, 2009 3:42 PM

"When we are talking about People who live only to create destruction of innocent people;"
Saint---The
---------------------
Your remarks are way off-base, these terrorists live and die to create destruction of people who they perceive to have been oppressed by, that is how a terrorist movement is started and maintained, eventually they devolve into pure criminality (much like the Somalia pirates) once their "cause" has been removed.

Are you advocating that everybody ought to torture since Calderon "routinely does it to Americans"

Do you know that many of our children died on the Iraqi battlefields because insurgents felt the moral obligation (to the point of suicide) to strike back because "Their brothers were being tortured in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?

These terrorists will stop at nothing and are among the worst people who have ever populated the planet, but for you to make a blanket statement like that sounds more like you are taking the kool-aid intravenously.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 21, 2009 3:29 PM

Obama doesn't really have much say in it because of the separation of powers between the Presidency and the Justice Department. He could apply pressure, or give a pardon for any convictions but that is about it.

One problem he has is the precedent that was set shortly after WWII where our justice department tried, convicted, and EXECUTED a Japanese soldier for WATERBOARDING an American soldier.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 21, 2009 3:19 PM

Obama has truly caved to liberal pressure. He initially wanted nothing to do with prosecutions, and made that perfectly clear in his first statements on the matter.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 21, 2009 2:50 PM

Mighty small opening in that door!

As it SHOULD be!

When we are talking about People who live only to create destruction of innocent people;

all bets should be off that table!

want to worry about Torture?

Bring it up with Felipe Calderon and his Prison Guards!

That gets routinely done on Americans!

Then for JakeD when he comes around:

I consider you One in a Hundred!

Know that when I say: 99% of Lawyers, give the rest a Bad Name! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | April 21, 2009 2:32 PM

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