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

Obama leaves door open to prosecution of Bush officials

ALT TEXT

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. GI Joe

    The "World" wants JUSTICE, on the illegal torturing. This is a good, and very welcoming BEGINNING for America to “Re-Brand” its image on the Global Human Rights issue! One must be a Good Leader for others to Follow!!

    Excellent Move by President Obama and there are many more to come.

    April 21, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. Sean

    No one should be above the law. If it's determined that some in the previous – or ANY – administration have broken laws or conventions, then they need to be held accountable.

    April 21, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  3. Larry

    Thanks for the Transparency Mr. President, this is exactly what we voted for !

    Chi Town...Shut up !

    April 21, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. Not right or left - Forward!

    Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Wu – line them up. They used the post 9-11 hysteria to justify a sadistic course of action that has no place in civilized enforcement or interogation. If the people in question ar guilty – try them, convict them and execute them – period. If you behave like them – through torture or whatever, then you lower yourself to their level. If America doesn't torture people – then the people who sanctioned torture ought not be Americans.

    April 21, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. Robert, Houston, TX

    can't wait to hear the republican response--the same repbublicans who prosectued a president over a bj. will they prosecute a president who authorized torture?

    April 21, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. Butch Pridgen

    911,Iraqi invation,Gimo, Outing our
    spys for political gain ,katrina,Brownie your doing a great job,I feel so secure

    April 21, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. Mimi

    I think that if someone signed off on one individual being waterboarded 183 times in only a couple of months....that needs to be investigated. People also need to understand that torturing someone repeatedly does not give good intel, it produces garbage. Why can't some people let that sink in? Studies have proven this. It is nothing new.

    It is against the law to torture people the way people were under the Bush administration. It did NOT keep us any safer. When will people wake up and realize this.

    April 21, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. So Tired of This

    The republican reaction actually makes me feel sick. They are not outraged that we tortured! They are outraged that we admit it. And George Will cares that people are wearing jeans (where has he been for about 40 years?) And Peggy Noonan says sometimes you need to just keep walking. Not exactly the Good Samaritan lesson we all learned. And some wacko is on FOX news complaining that we've just ruined all these techniques now that everyone knows. My God My God

    April 21, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. GOP LOL

    This is great. I'm so happy Obama is doing the right things. My god, Were would we be if McCain was President.

    April 21, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. ChumpBo

    WHat a dolt. I had higher expectations from a Harvard law student!! Why should the CIA officials who carried out the orders *NOT* be prosecuted. One always *HAS* the option to *RESIGN* and leave IFF they are not comfortable in doing what their boss wants them to do!! This is pathetic. This is like letting go of the Nazi concentration camp guards because they were simply carrying out orders!! Pathetic. Where is your *MORALITY*. Would you kill someone IF Bush asked you to? I guess not. So why would you torture somebody if BUSH asks you to!! Obama YOU are a DISAPPOINTMENT!!

    April 21, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. Tracy G from PA

    Why is it looney when you clearly have documents that go against the morals and values of this country?
    PROSECUTE THEM STARTING WITH BUSH!!!

    April 21, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. Dont B Fooled

    Keep in mind people, over 46% of this country voted AGAINST Obama...That is a HUGE number that says, "A LOT of us DO NOT believe in you"...The people detailed in the released memorandum(s) were KNOWN terrorists...Who would be just as happy hurting you or your children as they would breathing air. You bleeding heart liberals had better screw your heads on right, and recognize this is NOT the war of our fathers, it is one that attacks us at home, every day.
    The idea that Obama would consider prosecution is in itself contemptuous. Mr. Obama, do your job, and leave the political game you are playing out of politics.
    Lastly if any of you are going to bother posting something publicly, learn how to write/speak.

    April 21, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. Palermo

    We prosecuted Japanese soldiers for water-boarding in the war crimes trials after WWII, and called it torture then. It is interesting that we consider it torture when it is done TO us, and not torture when WE do it. We also scoffed at the phrase "I was only following orders", and considered that no excuse, during the Nuremburg trials.

    April 21, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Jon

    The administration is behaving in a left wing dangerous manner (meeting with Cuba, Venazula, and Iran). I mean really, we go from far right (Bush) to the far left (Obama). Could we please have a moderate who will represent the majority of Americans. This left right stuff has got to end. I hate Bush and Obama lovers. You all make us moderates sick. But the day will come when all you left and right zealots will be out of power and on that glorious day of deliverance America will have a sane reasonable voice again.

    April 21, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. NewAmerican

    We must prosecute them for bringing our country to shame in the eyes of the international community. Lying about WMD, Saddam Hussain, 9/11, Iraq, and etc. We have become a laughing stock of the world for lying on everything we say to them. WE HAVE LOST OUR CREDIBILITY AND ITS TIME WE REPAIR IT.

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. Lucullus

    Looking forward is all well and good but unfortunatley we've been looking forward since Richard Nixon. We thought Nixon was an abbarition and so we let him walk. It's been down hill since then. Reagan got away with Iran Contra and now we're supposed to turn our backs (look forward) the court appointment of a President, on lying, spying, criminal incompetence and neglect. Starting an unnecessay war based on lies, the repeal of habeus corpus, the gutting of the constitution and the bill of rights, war crimes, the list is endless. Enough. Hold these people accountable for their actions. If we don't the next "W" to come along will finish the job of destroying America and refuse to leave office.

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. Al - Chicago

    Eric Holder is the US Attorney General. Eric Holder is required to pursue any legal matter where his office believes that a federal crime has occured and should be prosecuted. It is not about what the President wants to happen or the White House Staff.

    Have we really had amnesia about this so soon after outrage over alleged White House involvement in Federal Prosecuter firings at the prompting of the Bush Administration?

    The President, Vice President, Chief of Staff, former Vice President, Fox News, MSNBC News and CNN are not the Attorney General of the United States.

    Being for a party or against it is not relevant. If a crime was committed the AG should investigate, bring charges if appropriate and let the courts decide the case.

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  18. Lolbama

    We should definitely go back to using harsh language as a deterrent. They blow themselves up to kill as many as possible and the glibs are screaming about water-boarding?

    Really though why can't he just get back to taxing the only people with money to drive them out of the US so literally no one will be able to pay the future down and no one will want to create their own business and hire 1000s of unemployed. The rich will always afford to be able to get out of dodge...who is left holding the bag? Ask your union delegate, I'm sure he/she can always resort to blaming Bush. It is the default response anyhow isnt it?? haha

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Rob

    Let the fact-less snipe hunts begin. Another chance for the Dems to spread lies, divide the country, and spend more of our money.

    Thanks you yutzes!

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. jake

    prosecute them! and start with Cheney...he would make a wonderful example!

    April 21, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. eric in texas

    Wow, funny to see how many people support a president who undermines the CIA. Listen, you don't have a "right" to know how this country gets protected and by what means. Do you think this is new? Think this has never happened before? Correct, it has. The difference is we have a dime dropping, bowing, groveling president who wants nothing more than media attention to a previous administration to take the eyes of the country off his own misteps (AIG, bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia, indebting our next 3 generations with bailouts, etc).

    Funny how everyone buys it too!!

    April 21, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    The Bush crowd didn't just take the low road with their morals, they broke the law – both domestically and internationally. They really need to stand trial and be held accountable.

    April 21, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  23. Biff Biffington

    YESSSS !

    America from the time of George Washington has not tortured. Washington, himself said torture would not be tolerated, as it put 'his' captured troops at greater risk.

    Chi-town and Jimmy boy..... you are on the wrong side of history......

    AGAIN!

    April 21, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  24. Russ

    My 89 year old father was a prisoner in a Nazi prison camp in World War II. He witnessed torture and murder, primarily of Jews, Russians and homosexuals. He says that those responsible for this conduct were held accountable by the world, and that those who committed atrocities today should also be held accountable. Aside from the torture of prisoners, is there any accountability for lying and taking our nation to war?

    April 21, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. MD

    When are people going to stop under estimating President Obama. Just because he know how and when to show a little humility and civility doesn't mean he is weak. Just ask the Clintons and the McCains.

    People, please don't be fooled into thinking that this administration is weak. Cheney shouldn't have under estimated them. He should be the first to be charged...

    April 21, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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