April 21st, 2009
12:48 PM ET
6 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. rene ohio

    i hope eric holder will prosecute,,and hurry up so we can shut up that rascist dick cheney , who faked a back injury so he wouldn't have to stand and watch the black man become president

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  2. Vicky

    Have we forgotten that we have not been attached since 9-11, and how do you think that happened? With the brave men and women who fight for us and against our enemies who have no rules… who cut off heads and burn bodies of our soldiers. We need brave men and women in leadership who do what’s right and not what is popular.

    April 21, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Moe NY

    President Obama is right, it is not appropriate to prosecute those CIA officials and others who carried out the interrogations because they had no choice in the matter, they probably would have been shot for treason if they had refused. The orders came from high up, and those people should be prosecuted....i.e. Cheney, Bush, Rove, Gonzales (sp?), and the rest of that evil administration who had a hand in enacting this horrendous act.

    April 21, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Tim

    By the way, we lose our moral bearings when we fail to confront evil. Thank God there are people willing to stand up to it and make tough judgements, when the rest of the on-the-sidelines world is sure to judge our every efforts.

    April 21, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. EW

    GOOD. I love seeing the right-wing propaganda machine do everything possible to salvage any remaining credibility for what are clearly blatant violations of U.S. and international law. The argument that we got valuable intelligence is thin at best and does not justify waterboarding someone nearly 200 times. What is wrong with you people?

    You are insane to believe that the ends justify the means. If civilized societies are to continue forth, then we must learn to act as such and follow the rule of law. Its not about the terrorists you morons, its about ourselves and what kind of country and society we want to be.

    April 21, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. RRR

    It is ironic that WE insisted on the creation of the Geneva convention related to WWII, and in all the 'glory' movies about the war this term is usually mentioned......

    But Bush, Cheney, and others thought that the U.S. could subscribe, or not subscribe to the restrictions of the Geneva Convention as they thought fit.

    If ANY OTHER leader in the world even hints at this.....we label them 'axis of terror'. But Cheney defends to this day the same acts....if ANYONE s/b procescuted......this traitor should be the first. He betrayed this country, and lowered our image to the world.

    April 21, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    The reasonable cause to believe a crime has been committed is abundant, thus requiring _at least_ an investigation by a grand jury, not guerrilla theatre by some Congressional committee. Allowing past torturemongers to slide is no different from a blanket pardon of them.

    April 21, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Robin in Tampa, FL

    The lawyers who gave the Bush Administration legal counsel which approved of the torture interrogation methods should be prosecuted.

    April 21, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. munchmom

    Has he lost his freakin' mind!!! Not a single person who had anything to do with the detainees in Gitmo, including torture, are war criminals!! As far as I am concerned, they deserved everything they got. Those people have no regard for human life themselves, especially westerners. I don't care and I am like Cheney now–show the memos that tell what info was gained as a result of the torture techniques. No, Obama won't do that because then he wouldn't have anything to complain about. Having Holder be responsible for this is like putting the wolf in the hen house-what a mess!!!

    April 21, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  10. gotta go

    My theary about Cheney, is that he is telling Obama "come and get me. The arrogance of this man is beyond belief. Like to see his butt in Iraq with a gun fighting for his belief, let see how smart the jerk is then. Like to see "ALL" of them in prison, then we see how smart they are. Water board them for information, after all it was their idea.

    April 21, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Tim

    I'm waiting on Pelosi to explain why she asked the administration to do more after she was briefed on the practices that were being deployed. I'm also waiting on Obama to release all of the memos that detail what information we were able to obtain after these methods were employed on who we were able to capture after getting this information.

    I then expect Obama to release anyone who was captured based on this "illegally obtained confession".

    Obama and his ilk are disgusting.

    April 21, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. Lacresha

    If I did it, I'd be sitting in a cell trying to avoid being executed. Bush should be executed also. After all, what's good for Texans are good for us all...right!?!?!

    April 21, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. Jason

    International laws against torture exist to protect Americans, along with everyone else in the world.

    But you think it's okay for YOU to ignore them?

    Gee, I wonder why people think we do not deserve their respect?

    And if you don't think we need it, you know nothing about how the world actually works.

    April 21, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. To: Jimmy Boy

    it is sad that they choose this path to protect us

    of the choices for protecting us, and there are and were many, they choose torture, taking away civil rights of Americans, snooping on citizens, lying to take us to war and the list goes on

    protecting us? is that measured by no attacks against us? we were attacked 9 months into their administration. When does anything become their responsibility?

    April 21, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. I used to like CNN but not anymore!

    Thats the best news I've heard in 8 years!

    April 21, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Operation Crush Rush

    Great news.Its about time.

    April 21, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  17. Lee Oates

    Once again Obama makes an important decision in a thoughtful and caring manner. It would be wrong to punish agency workers for what they were forced to do under orders from the Bush administrators, although personally I think that every person is morally responsible for their actions, regardless who orders it. I do believe that Bush and Cheney are truly "war criminals", responsible for 1000's of innocent deaths, including 5000 young American men & women, and both should be charged and jailed for it. They should be put on trial for advocating, and carrying out policies that justified and condoned torture. It was a low point in American history.

    April 21, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. Carol

    The first order of business is get Bybee out of his job on the Ninth Circuit. Call the Judiciary Committee and support those calling for him to be impeached as a judge. He is a disgrace.

    April 21, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. Amazed

    The notion of prosecuting people who did their best to protect us is amazingly misguided. If someone truly committed a crime, then he or she should be prosecuted. But, the evidience seems to show they were trying to maximize the ability to interrogate terrorists within the limits of the law in order to save American lives.

    April 21, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. Dave

    I'll buy tickets to the trial and the sentencing!

    April 21, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Matt

    Enjoy the one term Barry.

    April 21, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Cleaning up after W

    Hell, yes! It's not about retribution, it's about enforcing our own laws. Personally, I don't care about prosecuting Bush. He was just a stone figurehead, with the brains to match. Cheney is the one who should be locked away.

    Go get 'em, Eric Holder!

    April 21, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. Edward

    Obama is right, this is the justice departments jurisdiction ie. Eric Cantor.

    April 21, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. Ignorance

    Jimmy Boy – how did they protect us and they were in charge when 9/11 happened?

    April 21, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. Edward

    Obama is right, this is the justice departments jurisdiction ie. Eric Holder

    April 21, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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