Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama Leaves Further Action on Interrogation Memos to Attorney General

April 21, 2009 – 1:38 p.m.

President Obama on Tuesday left it up to the Justice Department to decide what action, if any, to take against Bush administration officials responsible for legal opinions permitting the use of harsh interrogation tactics on suspected terrorists.

The president also signaled that he would not necessarily oppose the creation of an independent commission to probe Bush-era counter-terrorism policies.

But he stressed his preference for looking forward, as he seeks to move beyond the controversies over waterboarding and other interrogation tactics that the government has renounced.

In brief remarks at the White House, Obama said that memos by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that he made public last week “reflected, in my view, us losing our moral bearings. That’s why I’ve discontinued those enhanced interrogation programs.”

Obama visited CIA headquarters on Monday to reassure intelligence agents that he had no intention to seek prosecution of those who conducted the interrogations.

“For those who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House, I do not think it’s appropriate for them to be prosecuted,” Obama said Tuesday.

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there.

“As a general deal, I think that we should be looking forward and not backwards,” he stressed.

The president said that “if and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period,” Congress should examine how such an inquiry could be done “in a bipartisan fashion outside the typical [committee] hearing process.”

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