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. Rickymo

    They should be tried for "Crimes Against Humanity"...it is a pity that some Americans still don't get it.

    April 21, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Pepou

    As a law-abiding citizen of this country, I am entitled to know what my government did during the Bush years and if they indeed broke the law, I am fully expecting that they be prosecuted. No one in this land is above the law.

    April 21, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Rickymo

    They should be tried for "Crimes Against Humanity"...

    April 21, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. AndyL

    If one of the Gitmo "released detainees" commits an act of terrorism, will the door be left open to procecute Obama as an accomplice?

    April 21, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |

    Great! Someone has to pay for what the Bush administration did to this economy. Let's see UNJUST WAR IN IRAG, WAR CRIMES, not to mention the domino effect on the economy. Cheney should be first on the list.

    April 21, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Say It Out Loud

    Good! The dirty dealing this gang of political thugs got away with still amazes me. It's nice to know that they may well be called out on at least some of their elitest policies.

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. tutt

    You people wishing for the prosecution of those trying to protect us are idiots. You are also a bunch of women (yes, even those of you with male names). I wonder how loudly you or your children would squeal when the likes of those being interrogated infiltrate this country and have their way.

    I also wonder how much outcry there would be from you pansies when it's reported the same acts are being carried out under a liberal administration which, according to those still at Gitmo (didn't Obama promise to shut it down?) is still going on. Wake up morons.

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. Rick Huffman

    I hate to tell all of You on the Looney Left this, but,,, The Bush Administration did nothothing Illeagal Period! If they had, the Looney Left that actually has some power, would have Impeached Him while He was still in office. Are You Wack Jobs really too stupid to understand that??

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Had It

    It's about time. Darth Cheney just smirks and sneaks his way around the law all the time.

    PROSECUTION of that evil one is in order – NOW.

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Pam

    I agree, especially if they were simply acting on orders from Bush and Cheney.
    Those 2 are who should be prosecuted

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Careful what you ask for, Mr. President.

    What goes around comes around. You're a pretty bright guy when it comes to politics... but those who surround you? Hmmmm... I think not.

    April 21, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. R in Maine

    The buck stops somewhere. If it is not with the actual perpetrators, because they thought they were following orders, then it must be with the senior officials who gave those orders and wrote the justifications of torture.

    April 21, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. Jim

    Bush and his associates should be under prosecution for starting a war that should have not happened at all. All the info was not true about Weapons of Mass Distruction.
    If this had to do with Weapon of Mass Distruction and al-quida, we should have been in Alfgan from the beginning, not Iraq.
    The United States should have gone after Bin-laden from the start, than Hussien for war crimes afterwards.
    The United States does everything backwards, than it is woo is us.
    All these people in Washington are professional Politicians that is all, and they have no working professional back ground for the work they do.

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

    The law is the law. If it were President Obama he would be prosecuted. Look what happened to Clinton. And the fine upstanding
    Kent Star said the law is the law.

    April 21, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  15. The Rule of Law

    Now that his hindparts is in the cross-hairs of the Justice Department, Ex-VP Dick Cheney (and that "ex" is not for executive) claims that good things came from torture.

    I don't believe him and even if I did, we don't live in a country where we operate under the premise that the "ENDS justify the MEANS".

    That would be Somalia .... where because of extreme poverty, poor farming conditions, and OVERFISHING by Russian, Chinese, Japanese commercial fleets, former Somali fishermen have turned to PIRACY to earn a living. Things there are so bad, a guy is smiling at the prospect he'll end up in a US jail.

    Perhaps this puts Cheney's continued comments in perspective? Do we still accept that the "ends justify the means"?.

    April 21, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. randy

    it is the right thing to do americans want answer.

    April 21, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  17. HouseDiva

    DO IT! Eric Holder!!! DO IT NOW!

    April 21, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  18. inat

    All i can say is 'wow'. It is unbelieveable what this administration is doing. yeah, my guy lost and 'that one' won. I was ready to move on, give him a chance and see what happens. But, ffs, all this guy does is look backwards. He has absolutely NO RESPECT for the office he holds. No administration has so blatently based their predecessors. He needs to take a lesson in statementship from George W. who holds his tongue and chooses not to criticize this inexperienced puppy who holds the office. If obama wants to divide this country, this is surely the path.

    April 21, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  19. It will get worse

    next time if we don't hold them accountable. Just like with the pirates that were let go.

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    Can we prosecute the tax cheats?????

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Longhorn Dallas, Tx

    Thank you, Mr. President.

    It's about time.

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. cheneywatch

    Well its a start Barack, but, don't ya think you jumped the gun last week in saying you wouldn't prosecute agents if they were "just following orders"?

    You are a strange thinker if you want justice for one group and not for another. Get your act together Mr. President, you are further deteriorating our image across the world. Uphold the law and prosecute anyone who violated the law. Its that simple Mr. President. Equal Protection.

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. jilldee

    bush protect us not like obama giving up our secrets. what do u people think the other countrys do to our people they hold hostage. these people that we had are trying to kill us lets not forget 911 obama one term only before we all die

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. jona

    This is the beginning of the end of sanity and our enemies will use Obama and the Demcrats. It's that simple.

    We didn't cut heads off and we didn't kill anyone and no blood was shed by these prisoners.

    You're all like a bunch of illiterate townfolk in an old western. Relax, sit down and watch.

    You don't even know what really transpired and you're ready to do people harm.

    SO who are you going to bash after the next attack is made possible by the vindictive mob?

    Mob mentality. Always works wonders.

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Karen S Crow

    And where does it stop? Seriously ... what happens if something horrible comes out regarding members of the Clinton Admin?? Do you prosecute them? What about Carter? Or Nixon? And while I'm asking ... what is to prevent the next GOP Administration from prosecuting Obama or members of his administration for what they consider "criminal acts"? (Broad definition "criminal") What is to prevent this sort of action from devolving into political witch hunts of the opposition for no other reason than to destroy one's political enemies?

    But then again ... isn't that all this really is??

    Just one thing to all those pushing for prosecutions of the Bush Admin ... be careful what you wish for ... you may just get it. Once prosecutions of former administrations is established , then all administrations, Democrat and Republican, will be open for prosecution as well.

    Think about it.

    April 21, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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