On Interrogation Policies, Obama Stuck Looking 'Backwards'
By Ben Pershing
In an interview last week before his trip to Latin America, President Obama said of his predecessor's interrogation policies: "I'm a strong believer that it's important to look forward and not backwards." Robert Gibbs reiterated that cliche yesterday.
But while Obama may want to look forward, this week has become increasingly consumed with that dreaded look backwards, as the controversy over Bush-era policies continues. To recap the last week: Obama released four Bush Justice Department legal memos outlining permissible interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. Obama suggested interrogators would not face prosecution. Dick Cheney criticized the release and asked for the publicization of evidence that the tough interrogations actually worked. (Dennis Blair, it turns out, also believes the interrogations yielded "high value information," but that view was edited out of what the White House released to the press.) Then Obama said the formulators of those interrogation policies -- but still not the interrogators themselves -- may face legal jeopardy, and that he would be open to an independent commission to probe the issue. For good measure, a Senate report being released today concludes that Bush officials were preparing to conduct tough interrogations months before getting approval for the techniques from DOJ.
Got all that? As AP puts it, Obama's comments yesterday "all but ensured that the vexing issue of detainee interrogation during the Bush administration will live on well into the new president's term." That may not be what Obama wanted, but the whole episode serves as a useful reminder that the commander-in-chief doesn't always get to control the agenda.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET on Apr 22, 2009
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