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. Jack

    Article 1, section 9 of the United States Constitution. Read it.

    President Obama may feel the actions taken by President Bush's administration/the Justice Department/ the CIA were unconstitutional.....I feel they may have been too....but the head of the Executive office allowing for the Legislature to submit for the judicial prosecution people whose old actions will be judged on a new interpretation of law...

    ...is quite literally removing boundaries of our checks and balances to pursue the ex post facto law.

    That is NOT legitimate, no matter how much personal dislike of the former President you may have.

    (Whether unconstitutional actions in a time of war, ex. President Lincoln suspending habeus corpus in the Civil War, are justified or not is another matter entirely)

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Todd

    Now the matter is clear. President Obama released the most innocuous of the "smoking gun" of the Bush torture escapade and waited for the deluge of calls for an investigation. There is no Argentina for Bush-era thugs,

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. nick

    Now we will see if our Attorney General has more courage then his claim that the American people donĀ“t , as it relates to race issues.
    Go for it Mr. Attorney General. Start Top Down, or Bottom Up. Just do it.

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. DB

    I really think our President and the rest of America need to put some of these issues that have no affect on our future to rest, and move on.

    The interrogation practices are not something we should all be happy about, but lets be realistic here. The following years after 9/11, we as Americans were angry and wanted answers as well as someones head for the terrorist attack on us. So we capture some prisoners, and we tortured them because I bet you deep down, we all wanted someone to pay one way or another. And that's just what happened.

    Lets move on.

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. TCM

    yeah, prosecute Bush for safeguarding the country...while you run around kissing up to radical muslims and dictators...I can't wait until Obama and his cronies are up on charges....I still say Gov Rod has the dirt on both Obama and Emanuel, and he's been paid to keep his mouth shut. It's a shame our country has stooped so low as to have this type of inferior leadership. The world is laughing at us

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Indict them immediately.

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  7. jm

    Obama, you better not. One day you will be out of office and they will come for you. Dangerous precident to set.

    April 21, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  8. leigh

    Where is Rove now. The controller of the world?

    April 21, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. jm

    First bowing to the Saudi King and now this. Just what country is he trying to defend and protect?

    April 21, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Joan-Massachusetts

    Bush and Cheney are the real criminals. JAIL THEM !!!

    April 21, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. Samantha

    I'm glad to see Obama keeping the door open for possible prosecution here. Bush and Chenney should definitely be the first ones to answer for approving torture. If Amerca won't I sure hope other international bodies will. I still remember the pictures of torture of civilians in IRAQ where the people were dehumanized through rape and other hideous things done to them. You're going to tell me Bush and Chenney didn't know about this until the pictures came out? Please.

    April 21, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Naomi

    Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.

    Rove at works!

    April 21, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Susan

    Those dangerous loons that you moonbats keep talking about kept you safe for the past 8 years. We have an economy thats in the tank, an out of control congress spending our money like wildfire and now Obama wants to prosecute those who helped keep us safe?

    Get your priorities straight Mr. President instead of pandering to the looney left.

    April 21, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. arithmetic is liberal

    Ha! You see fellow friends on the left?
    Of course he's not going to go after the Bush officials just yet.
    He's a smart guy, and he's building a case.
    Be patient. We are asking him to play checkers when he's playing chess.

    April 21, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Paul Schirf

    I'm still trying to find anyone able to point to a law that makes it illegal to torture of non-uniformed combatants captured and detained on foreign soil. The U.S. Constitution doesn't apply, nor does the Geneva Convention. Re-read boh documents if you feel they do apply and you may be surprised.

    April 21, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  16. Big John

    If they are never prosecuted it shows the rest of the world that we think we are above the international law...wrong message.

    April 21, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. bob

    Who knows, maybe we actually learned something from that supposed torture – like averting another attack. You people are so shallow that you would jeopardize our security for your hatred of the republicans. Our enemies are laughing at us now, between their planning sessions, of course. All thanks to Obama and his goofballs. He is a dork.

    April 21, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. joe tani

    well good so what will cheney say?

    April 21, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. JD

    And while your wanting to prosecute someone how about dragging your buddy Barney Frank in? Look at the mess he has caused by forcing banks and loan institutions into making bogus loans. Or better yet what about his other buddy Ted Kennedy? Here is a man who murdered a woman and got away with it. Oh I forgot he gave you a dog.

    April 21, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. Michelle

    Are people just crazy in America right now. I don't care if you agree with everything President Bush did but there is one indisputable fact. He kept our country save for seven years. If our new President ( who I voted for by the way) would like to do things differently then great. Go about doing things the way you want them done but move on. Forget about the past, it is over. The atmosphere after the 9/11 attacks were different, the people in charge were trying to make sure it didn't happen again and they succeeded. If most of us were in their shoes at the time, we probably would have done the same. Remember how we as Americans were feeling after the attacks, we were gone to make them pay at any cost. Let's all concentrate on the future and stop judging the past.
    Always proud to be an American

    April 21, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Nat Turner

    Go for it, Prez! The main crooks, Bush and Cheney should NOT be allowed to get away with creating "new" rules of war. They violated the Constitution and for that they must pay.

    April 21, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. Paul, Riverside CA`

    You can tell Obama has struck a cord, the TROLLS are out in full force.

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  23. Tim

    Obama is clueless. He wants to have it both ways, yet is completely blind to the turmoil he will create.

    An investigation would be wrong. Nothing that has been done to the scumbag terrorists is over-the-line torture (it is all open to interpretation) and any serving administration should be entitled to set national security policy as it sees fit.

    Obama is setting up another circus, before the old Burris/Giethner/Blago/etc circus has left town. He's being played by the far left in both the US and in South America and Europe, and he is blind to it.

    He's swaying in the wind, and on any given day is taking opposite views on the same issues. He is clueless.

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  24. pat

    Republicans are irrelevant and they are doing everything they can to criticize the President every day.

    Seems they are going to criticize the president for 8years!!

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  25. arithmetic is liberal

    They will only be prosecuted if we act!

    Call and write your congresspeople, and tell them that you want to see the rule of law restored, as well as America's standing in the world.

    No one is going to prosecute the Bush Crime Family for us. We have to make it impossible for lawmakers NOT to.

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13