Confusion over Torture Accountability

April 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some confusion in Washington over what could happen to Bush Administration officials who authorized harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects. President Obama is taking heat from both sides of the political aisle. Twice in two days, White House Officials said the president had ruled out prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised interrogation techniques that amounted to torture.

Reporter: "Why are they not being held accountable?"

Robert Gibbs: "The president is focused on looking forward, that's why."

That did not sit well with some Democrats in Congress and liberal groups. But on Tuesday, the president said that while he does not want low-level C.I.A. officers prosecuted, the Justice Department must now decide what to do about high-level officials who provided the legal cover.

Republicans pounced.

"What is the policy or the position of the administration because now it seems to me somewhat confusing," said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).

The Attorney General said Wednesday he would follow the law in deciding whether or not to prosecute. A former Clinton administration official said prosecutions would set a bad precedent.

Abraham Lincoln said he wouldn't prosecute the confederate leadership, which by definition committed treason. This would be the first administration in American history to look backwards.

More mixed messages from the White House which has questioned the effectiveness of harsh interrogation methods which have now been banned.

The President's own national intelligence director says "the information gained from these techniques was valuable" but added... "not essential to our national security."

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said Wednesday that if he can't get the votes to create an independent commission to investigate the Bush Administration he'll hold hearings in his Judiciary committee. Exactly the kind of partisan setting the president wants to avoid.

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