April 21st, 2009
12:48 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama leaves door open to prosecution of Bush officials


President Obama said Tuesday it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials. (GETTY IMAGES)

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama left open the possibility of criminal prosecution Tuesday for former Bush administration officials who drew up the legal basis for interrogation techniques that many view as torture.

He said it will be up to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether or not to prosecute the former officials.

"With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more a decision for the Attorney General within the parameter of various laws and I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah at the White House.

"There's a host of very complicated issues involved there. As a general deal, I think 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."

Obama reiterated his belief that he did not think it is appropriate to prosecute those CIA officials and others who actually carried out the interrogations in question.

"This has been a difficult chapter in our history and one of (my) tougher decisions," he added.

The techniques listed in the Bush-era memos released last week "reflected... us losing our moral bearings," he said.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. Jimmy Boy

    How sad... The people who have protected us are not under this weight.

    April 21, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. Enlighted Voter

    Bush, cheyney et al should be tried for treason, torture and other crimes. If the rethugs impeached clinton over a lie those guys should be in prison.

    April 21, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  3. Kimberly

    70% of this country wants them to be prosecuted, so I say do it! They are criminals, and I also think cheney should be tried first, then rove, then bush! ALL are dangerous criminal loons! They are not one bit better than chavez or ackmadinajad, however you spell his name. They are all terrorist to this and other countries.

    April 21, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. obama/mama

    I am dancing on my chair.....

    April 21, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. dumbocrat alert

    BIG MISTAKE Obama...quit trying to appease the loony left, you are already President...

    April 21, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Joseph King

    Dick Chenney should be thrilled that Obama does not wish to prosecute him for allowing and giving the OK for torture.

    April 21, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. walleye

    Prosecutions should start at the top. Leading the list should be Bush, Cheney and Rove. These guys should be behind bars and never heard from again.

    April 21, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. tedious898

    Cheney would want to shut up right now with all the criticism. He keeps pushing the GOP talking points; anything to demean or marginalize the work the president is doing.

    I don't think its "tit for tat" but President Obama campaigned pro transparency. He didn't want to prosecute his long lost cousing (Cheney) but this former V.P. is truly the "black sheep" of the family – excuse the pu.

    April 21, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Phil

    I would certainly hope that not only is the door still open but that the welcome mat is out with the porch light on!

    April 21, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. losing our moral bearings

    I agree

    I don't know if Bush was smart enough to wrap his brain around the implications of this, but Cheney certainly was, as was Rove, Rumsfeld, Rice

    prosecute them, this is one among many reasons to prosecute them, pick the one that you have the best evidence on and are most assured to win prosecution and make them answer for their transgressions against the U.S. and for putting the future of the U.S. in danger by torturing

    April 21, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Chi Town

    Bye Obama

    You have now lost your mind.

    Check the polls today... cause it's going to go through the floor soon.

    One and done... Barry
    And thanks for opening pandora's box on the future... and don't foget Kennedy and the rest of the Arms Services Comittee who where fully aware of everything... including Hillary Clinton

    April 21, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |

    Dick Cheney should be the first one! I think the reason he is speaking out so loudly against Obama is to gain support so his lying, racist, mean, hateful, angry, evil behind won't be put in jail for war crimes and economic crimes against America (Haliburton).

    Cheney is an evil man... even GWB probably has issues with him running his mouth now.... What this shows is that Cheney manipulated our country and former president!

    Just Evil at it's best and most vocal!

    April 21, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. Soccer Nana

    Good, Cheney, I am giving you the privilege of being FIRST on the list. Get vocal now.

    April 21, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Samuel


    Prosecute them!

    April 21, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. mtv

    Don't just leave the Door Open, Prosecute the Head Hoods...........Bush and Cheney!!!!!!! Since the GOP keep placing blame..........Let's see them get behind OBAMA and Prosecute Bush and Cheney for their war crimes

    April 21, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Chas in Iowa

    Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfield get a free ticket to the Hague.
    War crimes, are war crimes regardless of who decided it was OK.

    April 21, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. Gary

    I don't like torture, but most of the things in these memos clearly weren't torture. Nearly every kid afraid of bugs has had a bug put in his face on a playground. It's not nice but it's not torture.

    I DO want our country to be safe and if you can demonstrate actionable intelligence from these interrogations that saved lives then I'm okay with it. This is not a game. These terrorists don't care about rules. We need to find and kill Osama Bin Ladin. If you find him alive and torture him to get info to stop the next attack then so what. He probably deserves to be tortured after 9/11.

    Politically, persecution and prosecution over torture will back fire on the democrats (especially if al queada successfully attacks us again).

    April 21, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. Dark chapter in US history

    Haven't these past three months been torture enough?

    April 21, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. Bob

    Obama is an exteme abortion rights provider but George Bush has lost his moral bearing for protecting the lives of Americans. What a joke.

    April 21, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Unshrub

    I hope Cheney gets life.

    April 21, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. mona

    This is the best news I have heard in such a long time!!!

    April 21, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. WhoisRight

    They will all need to look at Dems too, especially those on the Intelligence Committees that knew and approved of previous actions should they wish to go forward.

    April 21, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  23. Sharon Kitchen

    Yes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    any more out-burst by cheney?............please............

    April 21, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. BrooklineTom

    America doesn't torture.

    If those who ordered and carried out these crimes are not prosecuted, the flood-gates of brutality will be opened.

    The "Nuremberg defense" didn't wash in the 1940s and it doesn't wash today. These were crimes against humanity, and the perpetrators should be prosecuted.

    April 21, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  25. W Reid Whitaker

    War is war, and war is hell. Get over it. This is one reason everybody is pushing us all around, and beating up on us all around the world. We are too soft. We have everyone laughing at us.

    April 21, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
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