April 21st, 2009
12:48 PM ET
13 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. Mo in DC

    Isn't Obama great.

    April 21, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. Jay, Northern VA

    Does anyone remember one of the biggest things holding up Attorney General Eric Holder's confirmation was this issue. The leading republican said that he was 'assured' that Holder would not go after them. if the Attorney General goes after him, then I can see him taking heat from the right. If he does not, I can see the Attorney General and Obama taking heat on the left. Either way fireworks will fly and if the men in question are prosecuted, then I can see a hard time in the senate to pass anything used a tool for revenge. ...Ah, the crappy side of politics.

    April 21, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  3. Tim

    I think the folks like Cheney should be prosecuted!!!!

    April 21, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  4. res49

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

    How true,and when there is no one left,it will be up to us as individual to fend for ourselves. It's only a matter of time as our nation rots itself from within. Who needs enemy when were doing a better job of destroying ourself from within. I always woundered why America is never mention in the Bible in the last day,it's because were already gone.

    April 21, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. President Obama could walk on water and the Party of NO would still complain that he left footprints!

    President Obama has only stated that the lower level CIA grunts that actually did the torture were not going to be prosecuted.

    President Obama has NEVER stated his administration would not prosecute anyone involved with the torture.

    April 21, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  6. Robert

    This is nothing but political handwashing to appease the far left. I really doubt anything will come of this.

    April 21, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Craig

    President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates approved and carried out torture in numerous situations in clear violation of US law, The Military Code, The Geneva Convention and Judeo-Christian morality. Judicial precendents affirm that we correctly prosecuted Japanese military for their waterboard torture of our heroic servicemen, and at Nurenburg we rejected the argument of Nazi underlings that they be absolved of their heinous crimes "because they were just following orders." Their is a reason the statue of Justice is blind-folded – Justice must follow the truth no matter where it leads and no matter what the position/rank of the perpetrator. Bush and Cheney boast of their willful actions and so they and their subordinates must be prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. Americans are not Nazis, we respect the rule of law ans so we do not torture period. We must say to our posterity and to the world that this evil violates our laws and values and that we can not and will not tolerate torture. If President Obama refuses to authorize a Special Proscecutor, he is guilty of Obstruction Of Justice and violates his oath of office. We must send the message – Never Again.

    April 21, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. Tony

    I hope Obama does go forward with charges because a.) he's got no case, if waterboarding is "torture" then the military "tortures" hundreds of Americans troops every day for training purposes and b.) it will kill Obama's approval rating and prove he's nothing but a fascist dictator.

    April 21, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. proud army navy mom

    Pres Obama has said repeatedly that he has No appetite to prosecute these war criminals and I agree that we do not need the distraction right now.

    , .....however if the Dept of Justice wants to gather evidence along with various house and senate committees, more power to them

    But don't put this on the President, he has stated his positions, but he won't stand in the way of others.

    April 21, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. JT

    Go get them Mr. President. Have Colin Powell to come in and tesitfy for the prosecution.

    April 21, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. Patt Morriss

    Those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Letting these thugs go free tells the world this administration condons these outrageous crimes. Bush, Cheney, and the lawyers that conned the CIA should be looking through bars. Oh yes, and water boarded.

    April 21, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. P Alfonso

    Totally ridiculous. The Obama administration is just looking for distractions from the real important factor that our economy is in shambles and they cannot fix it.
    The discontent of the people toward our government that got us in the mess that it is the real issue.
    Who gives... about some terrorist that got waterboarded. Give us a break our navy seals are drown during training. Is that torture too?

    April 21, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  13. David Dawson

    After 9/11 we all cried out for action along with protection. Most Americans demanded that we not only discover the criminals, but use all means to track down other future planners of death. ONLY because we have not been hit inside the US do we now rise up on our political haunches and cry out for prosecution of those who did just what we had all demanded. We can be shocked and horrified that we tortuered terrorists, but it is all a preamble to the next attack. They want to kill us all–even kill the liberals–can you believe it?–the terrorists even want to kill those who would support them and who want to prosecute their fellow citizens along the way.

    April 21, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  14. Kevin in Ohio

    If this happens, then Obama should expect the same.

    April 21, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  15. Dont Kill the Messenger

    Prosecuting these administrators would be like killing the messenger, the Obama Administration is just looking for a scapegoat to release the left's populist anger,

    How about some maturity, recognizing the difficult position we were in from 2001-2007 (when magically democrats and republicans both didnt seem to mind the use of water boarding ect NANCY PELOSI, armed services committee, national intelligence committees ect).

    Prosecuting Bush officials would just drive a nail into the coffin of bipartisanship, and further polarize our nation ( Remember 46% of America or 59.9 million Americans voted Republican)

    The famous saying is is War is H$ll, and this war was no different. Regardless of your feelings about IF we should have been there, the facts is we ARE There.

    Dont Kill the Messenger, Just Move on and make sure it doesnt happen again.

    April 21, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. ceepee

    This is not going to go away for a long long time.

    April 21, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  17. Clueless George goes to jail

    Oh, just the thought of the Bushies being held responsible for their arrogant behavior. Not that it will ever happen, but it still gives me goose bumps!!!

    April 21, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
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