Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama changes course; may now favor prosecutions

Seemingly just days after ruling out the prosecution of CIA agents who used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects, President Barack Obama created a media firestorm Tuesday when he said he might favor investigating and prosecuting Bush administration officials who authorized the harsh methods. Obama's statement followed weeks of denials, in which the president said the country should be looking ahead and not examining the recent past, according to the New York Times. The controversial remarks came while Obama was answering questions from reporters in the oval office. "If and when there needs to be a further accounting," he said, Congress should figure out how to get it "in a bipartisan fashion" from people independent from the government. The comments certainly suggest that that Obama now favors an independent investigation of the Bush administration policies, perhaps by a special prosecutor. Obama also suggested he might favor the prosecution of the attorneys who wrote legal justifications for the harsh interrogation policies when he said that question would be up to Attorney General Eric Holder. "I don't want to prejudge that," Obama said. Three Bush administration lawyers who signed the legal memorandums, John C. Yoo, Jay S. Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, are expected to be the subject of a highly critical Justice Department report that could recommend their disbarment. Obama's latest statements come while reverberations from the administration's release of the secret memos are still reverberating in Washington. The memos revealed that two al-Qaida operatives were subjected to waterboarding, a type of simulated drowning, more than 250 times, the Times said. Release of the memos prompted the predictable howls of outrage from Obama's Republican critics, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Times said.

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