August 24th, 2009
06:57 PM ET
13 years ago

CIA probe is 'terrible politics' for Obama, Dem strategist says

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A Democratic strategist said Monday that the new CIA interrogation probe announced by Attorney General Eric Holder is 'terrible politics' for the Obama administration."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A prominent Democratic strategist said Monday that the Justice Department probe of CIA interrogations during President George W. Bush's administration may turn into a political liability for President Obama.

"This is terrible politics for the Obama administration and the Democrats," James Carville, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, said Monday in an interview on 'The Situation Room.' "The country – like – really doesn't want this."

But, Carville added that the decision to open the probe into Bush-era interrogations of terrorism suspects is being driven by a belief that "we are a nation of laws."

Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist and CNN political contributor, agreed with Carville.

"Well, we are a nation of laws," Rollins said. "And, I think, obviously if there's anybody who violated laws, they should be punished."

But, Rollins noted that the probe runs the risk of sapping morale at the CIA "at a time that we need them to be on alert and moving forward."

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that he has asked federal prosecutor John Durham to examine whether CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists were illegal. Holder's move came as senior administration officials said Obama has approved a special interrogation unit to be housed within the FBI, and as a redacted CIA inspector general's report on interrogation methods was made public for the first time.

"There are those who will use my decision to open a preliminary review as a means of broadly criticizing the work of our nation's intelligence community," Holder said in a statement. "I could not disagree more with that view. The men and women in our intelligence community perform an incredibly important service to our nation, and they often do so under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They deserve our respect and gratitude for the work they do."

"Further, they need to be protected from legal jeopardy when they act in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance. That is why I have made it clear in the past that the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees. I want to reiterate that point today, and to underscore the fact that this preliminary review will not focus on those individuals."

And the White House press secretary issued a short statement regarding the probe Monday afternoon:

"The President has said repeatedly that he wants to look forward, not back, and the President agrees with the Attorney General that those who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance should not be prosecuted. Ultimately, determinations about whether someone broke the law are made independently by the Attorney General."

Filed under: CIA • Obama administration • The Situation Room
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