Just hours after saying he would never prosecute CIA officers for harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists, President Barack Obama opened the door Tuesday to prosecuting the Bush administration officials who OK’d the techniques.
Obama said it’s up to Attorney General Eric Holder – who works for him – to decide whether Bush administration lawyers should be charged with war crimes or any other offense for writing the memo’s approving of such techniques as water boarding.
"I do worry that this gets so politicized that it hampers our ability to function effectively," he said when asked about a possible independent investigation.
“If and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period,” he added about a possible Congressional inquiry, “it could be done in a bipartisan fashion outside of the typical process that would break down along party lines."
He stressed that “I’m not suggesting that it should be done." But he added that if there were an investigation, it would be "very important” for the American people to see it as an effort to find the truth and not political benefit for one party.
Obama spoke as the liberal group moveon.org launched a campaign to gather signatures on petitions urging Holder to appoint a special prosecutor.
“On Thursday, President Obama released memos that describe, in horrific detail, the torture techniques authorized by the Bush administration. The memos make clear that top Bush officials didn't just condone torture, they encouraged it,” the group said in an email to supporters.
“So far there's been no accountability for the architects of Bush's torture program — the top officials who justified keeping detainees awake for 11 days straight, water boarding them repeatedly, and forcing prisoners into coffin-like boxes with insects.
“We need real consequences for those responsible — it's the only way to keep this from happening again. Attorney General Holder can open an investigation into the torture program — but he most likely won't unless people everywhere speak up and demand it.”
On Monday, former Vice President Dick Cheney argued that the interrogations were productive and necessary to stop terrorist attacks. He urged the Obama administration to declassify and release additional memos that he said document the helpful information drawn out in the interrogations.