President Obama: AG To Decide On Torture Prosecutions


President Barack Obama . . . is leaving the door to open to possible prosecution of Bush administration officials who devised harsh terrorism-era interrogation tactics. . . . Obama did say . . . he could support a Hill investigation if it were conducted in a bipartisan way. [President Obama] also said that it is up to the attorney general whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving these tactics.

Rahmbo and Gibbs are contradicted by the President. Clearly a walkback. What will it mean? We'll find out. Video on the flip.

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    Good news. (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 11:53:44 AM EST
    I don't mind if he waffles if he waffles in support of my opinion!

    exactly (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:06:42 PM EST
    What is the point of us applying pressure to him to change his mind if all we do is criticize him for changing his mind?

    Obviously (none / 0) (#29)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:39:48 PM EST
    I hope you are not implying I am criticizng him here.

    I do hope for some follow through however.


    You just saw all the (4.25 / 4) (#42)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:48:24 PM EST
    follow through you are going to see. That follow through being CYA.

    Remember that "meeting" I mentioned earlier? You just saw the fruits of it - pure CYA. I'm surprised that you don't see it for what it is.


    that is certainly possible (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:50:53 PM EST
    Even likely.

    I'll reserve judgment until the event however.


    What event? (4.25 / 4) (#47)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 02:56:33 PM EST
    You just posted the video of the second and most important act of a three part play.

    The first act entitled "Unintended Consequences" was about  politician trying to gain favor with a faction of his party he had up to then ignored. And then in doing so he release a multi-head monster that reached across all political spectrum's.

    The second act entitled "CYA" has been described over several posts already. The second act was The Event.

    The third act entitled "Bush Part Deux" is where Holder quietly come out and says that to prosecute the Presidents legal advisers and political advisers would hamper all future Presidents from getting the advice they need to make decisions. He would end act three by assuring everyone that President Obama rejects torture and it will never happen in his administration, until of course it does, in which case he and Holder would apply the DC rule of Plausible Deniability just as Bush did with Abu Ghraib.

    The title of the play itself of course is:

    "I've Seen This Play Before"


    I love comments (5.00 / 3) (#48)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:01:39 PM EST
    that make me feel less cynical.  relatively speaking.



    Sounds about right to me... (none / 0) (#49)
    by otherlisa on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 03:10:58 PM EST

    Do you really think (4.40 / 5) (#24)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:35:54 PM EST
    he is waffling? Come on! He's playing Presidential Politics 101.

    Here let's spell this out. First off Obama has a history going back to college of having the capacity to make people who disagree with him think that in the end he is agreeing with them, when in reality he is not. That is one of the reasons he won the nomination - and then was able to flip-flop without blinking an eye. He is doing the same here.

    Now Presidential Politics 101:

    he could support a Hill investigation if it were conducted in a bipartisan way.

    Bipartisan? Never going to happen and Obama knows it. So saying what he did is a very safe thing to say. He "makes you think he is on your side"., when in reality it is a throw-away line. He may as well say  he would support an investigation if the moon is made of cheese. I don't see how anyone could take that part of what he said as credible.

    it is up to the attorney general whether to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who wrote the memos approving these tactics.

    Of course. Ultimate deniability of responsibility. Bush played that card many times with all of his AG's. And people are buying the same game from Obama? Come on!

    Obama has always been a Teflon Man. That is why I never voted for him. To slick. To untrustworthy. What better place for a Teflon Man than the WH where you are surrounded by people you cam lay-off responsibility to, like say the AG?

    In an earlier post I said:

    "As we speak Obama is meeting with staff on how they are going to change the subject."

    Well I was part right, they were meeting. But they didn't exactly change the subject. What they changed was who was responsible. And clearly it isn't Obama. It is AG Holder. LOL. The DC Shell and Pea Game. Who wants to bet $1000 against my position that Holder won't prosecute anyone? I'll be kind and tell you the odds are not in your favor if you take that bet. Who wants to bet against that the fix was in before the end of the meeting and it was already agreed that Holder would not prosecute anyone which was Obama's original position?

    So Obama is in favor of an investigation if it is bipartisan. Any money say that the GOP will participate in that investigation in a bipartisan way?

    Any money say that Holder will prosecute?

    Any money say that Obama really changed a thing?

    The dairy says: "Clearly a walkback." The only thing being walked back here is those who have been calling for an investigation and prosecution.

    Obama is clever. But not so clever that you can't see through him if you want to.


    Are you saying (none / 0) (#38)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:05:14 PM EST
    Obama's a Jedi?  Seriously, I do have to admit what you stated above and his ability to somehow have his opponents go nuts/ self-destruct (almost every single race he's won the other side loses it after a little bit) while he remains calm, cool and collected might be bigger strengths than the guy's eloquence.

    Not a Jedi; just Obama WORMing Gibbs, Rahm ,and (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by jawbone on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:36:32 PM EST
    even himself.

    He's changed the discussion.

    Now he can still talk about going forward, not looking back -- bcz any real investigation decisions are all going to be done by DOJ and Holder -- or maybe a "bipartisan" Congressional investigation. He's washed his hands of this. He hopes.

    When Gibbs gets questions on What Obama Really Meant, he can just say it's in DOJ's hands, etc. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

    If Holder is asked, he can decline to comment on an ongoing investigation. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

    And the result? Go read Ian Welsh's three posts on what ignoring our government's (BushCo's) torture gambit means for the American Experiment.


    My point would be that (4.00 / 3) (#41)
    by Catch 22 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:45:36 PM EST
    Obama was the one who self destructed here and is now cleaning up his mess by making you and others think he is on your side when in reality he hasn't changed his position at all.

    He is making you think he has changed positions but a non-emotional examination of what he said combined with a healthy dose of the history of what other Presidents have done and said before before him will lead you to the fact that nothing has changed in his position other than appearances.


    Yup, he's playing the left (none / 0) (#56)
    by BrassTacks on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 10:18:47 PM EST
    Like a fiddle.  He's not going to do a darn thing.  

    Good news and bad news (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Dadler on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 11:59:10 AM EST
    While I applaud the door being left open a CRACK, his waffling never should have happened to begin with.  It worries me and is, IMO, an indication of a lack of core values when it comes to the things core values depend on most.  Be a leader first, a follower second.  That is what you were elected to do.

    What waffling? (none / 0) (#5)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:02:41 PM EST
    To my knowledge, this is the first time he's said anything about prosecuting or not prosecuting the Bybee types, so how is that waffling?

    Seems very clear to me Rahm and Gibbs were simply off the reservation because of some misunderstanding or mistaken assumption about what the boss wanted.

    We do know that Obama does not do 180s on a dime.  He's a chronic ponderer.  If he'd said this a couple weeks from now, that would be one thing, but not this fast.


    Rahm and Gibbs were the trial (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by oldpro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:06:25 PM EST
    balloons.  If there are two guys who AREN'T out of the loop (but may occasionally be 'off the reservation') it's Gibbs and Rahm.



    I see (5.00 / 3) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:08:13 PM EST
    so you are one of those from the school that what the President's COS and Press Secretary say do not reflect the Preisdent's views.

    Puleeeeaze. Enough!


    I am of the school that (none / 0) (#23)
    by Molly Bloom on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:34:33 PM EST
    they reflect the President when he wants them to and they don't when he doesn't want them to. When this becomes clear is dependent upon events and may change daily as required.

    This is true of all Presidents and not just the current one.


    Of course (none / 0) (#27)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:38:44 PM EST
    Pols are Pols as someone said (none / 0) (#30)
    by Molly Bloom on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:42:06 PM EST
    Yep (none / 0) (#31)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:42:55 PM EST
    I see you've (none / 0) (#25)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:36:27 PM EST
    become a mind-reader now?

    Ordinarily, obviously, the COS and press secretary reflect the president's line 100 percent.  I'm highly dubious about this one, though, because of the rapidity with which this unfolded.  Obama does not make up his mind quickly, never mind change his mind quickly, particularly on complicated issues of major import.

    It does occasionally happen that people screw up, y'know.

    Also, Obama has not been shy about saying unequivocally that both Bush/Cheney and CIA types would not be prosecuted, period.  He said zippo about the Bybee types, even as he was making a lengthy statement about releasing the memos they authored.  You think that was accidental?

    I see no evidence whatsoever that Obama has ever been capable of making a complete 180 on anything overnight.  Like Bush, he trusts his own judgment far too much for that.  Instead, he ponders and chews and consults and makes his 180 in a weasely sort of way several weeks or months later while pretending he really isn't.  Example A, his FISA vote.

    It doesn't even matter, if he does the right thing in the end.  But I did say from the beginning I thought he'd left the door open for this, and everybody else was certain he'd never allow it.


    Are you serious? (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:38:26 PM EST
    the COs and the PRess Secretary were off the reservation? Are you freaking serious? Puhleeease. Enough.

    The President changed the position is what happened.

    That's a good thing btw.


    I could maybe - maybe - buy the (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by Anne on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:58:28 PM EST
    Obama-doesn't-make-up-his-mind-quickly argument, but for the fact that he was not reading the memos for the first time last week like everyone else; he's had months, I'm guessing, and I'm pretty sure there's been plenty of conversation internally about them, don't you think?

    Do I want the truth - or as much of it as it is possible to get - to come out, and for the right thing to be done with that truth?  Absolutely.

    And while I know one answer to the question about why so much always has to be approached from a sideways direction, instead of head-on, is "politics," I'm pretty much fed up with everything having to be political, instead of good old-fashioned right or wrong.

    And I think that until we can break with the political a bit and stand occasionally as one against what is wrong, we are going to keep doing the tango on far too many issues.

    Obama needed to lead and to bring us together as one against what we read in those memos - and he needed to do it not in the new American way of "it's too hard and too ugly to face, and let's just move on."

    It's a failure of leadership, which is pretty sad, given that he's had months to formulate what that leadership would be.


    bipartisan? (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:03:37 PM EST
    This can't be done by Congress. It needs to be done by a special prosecutor. Patrick Fitzgerald?

    Congress (Senate committee) (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:10:23 PM EST
    did an excellent job investigating Watergate break-in and coverup.

    Have you watched Congress recently? (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:12:13 PM EST
    They can't investigate a thing.

    I'm hoping D. Feinstein has (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:14:26 PM EST
    turned over a new leaf.

    Leaf? (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by squeaky on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:22:11 PM EST
    She will have to cover her a** on this considering that she was one of the gang of eight. Do you think that if GOPers get investigated that they won't call for some Dem head?

    It was the House Banking Committee (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:29:26 PM EST
    that broke the thing wide open originally, but regardless the reality is that it fell to Congress because Nixon was not going to investigate himself - or allow his attorney general to pursue wrong-doing - Saturday Night Massacre - and I'd like to point out that there were many pitfalls in the Congressional process not the least of which was Gerald Ford's obstruction on the House Banking Committee and Fred Thompson's reports to Nixon on the evidence they were collecting for the hearings.

    I'd say that if you can get it into the judiciary for review, the process would be less politically tainted and probably fairer for everyone involved - including anyone who is accused of wrong doing.


    Well, technically, that's not bi-partisan (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by shoephone on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:20:17 PM EST
    it's non-partisan. Fine by me to have a special prosecutor.

    Frankly, I am about as fed up with this bi-partisanship nonsense as I could possibly be. There's partisan, bi-partisan, non-partisan... and then there's the law. How I wish Obama would simply stand for upholding the law, but considering his FISA flip-flops, I'm about as likely to get a pony for Christmas.


    The pressure is working (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:27:32 PM EST
    let's keep it up.

    Sen Whitehosue said the DOJ OPR Report on the BYbee memo should come out in th enext feww weeks.

    Although Specter says he's (none / 0) (#33)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:50:54 PM EST
    never met a better fellow than Bybee.

    oh, well (none / 0) (#35)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:52:52 PM EST
    nuff said

    Polititcally, isn't it more advantageous to Obama (5.00 / 0) (#45)
    by steviez314 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 02:02:17 PM EST
    to be seen as the concilliator, wanting to move forward, while allowing the AG to be the one (since he after all represents the USA, not the President) to appoint a special investigator/prosecutor.

    It almost feels like a good cop/bad cop routine.

    I just don't see it happening (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 02:42:13 PM EST
    They will never go after Bush or Cheney.  It only opens a can of worms that he doesn't want to open.

    Philip Zelikow goes public w/ his pushback against (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by jawbone on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 04:44:39 PM EST
    the torture memos in 2005.

    Trying to remove the BushCo taint? To push Obama into real investigations?

    Last two paragraphs are chilling (and could have been/probably was written by any number of lefy bloggers):

    The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.  

    In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.  (My emphasis)

    Link via bernhard at Moon of AL.

    Good. Ed Henry was all over it (none / 0) (#1)
    by oldpro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 11:53:22 AM EST
    on CNN just now.

    Maybe that first cabinet mtg. (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 11:58:06 AM EST
    influenced the President?

    "The buck stops here" (none / 0) (#11)
    by Yman on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:11:17 PM EST
    Well, close to here.

    Actually, about 6 blocks that way ... over at the DOJ.

    BTW - He could support an investigation if it's bipartisan?!?!

    What are the chances of that?

    This is great great news! (none / 0) (#14)
    by lilburro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:21:30 PM EST
    Writing the President a letter and thanking him for saving our Constitution is not yet in order, but I think now is where we show our encouragement by supporting all moves to prosecute.  

    And also spend time wondering which button on Obama was pushed.

    Dianne Feinstein is on now (none / 0) (#15)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:21:50 PM EST
    saying that she's found evidence that the toturers were contractors - not CIA officers.  That's an interesting and new wrinkle given the immunity granted to CIA officers.

    well (none / 0) (#21)
    by lilburro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:32:21 PM EST
    the interrogation plans were still designed by CIA.  If we can trust that coming out of the mouth of Kiriakou..

    (great reason for a Truth Commission - a lot of what we thought we knew was a lie.)


    But my point was more that if (none / 0) (#28)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:39:46 PM EST
    he's saying that he's indemnified the torturers because they are CIA and they aren't CIA, that's an interesting wrinkle I think.  Don't you?

    Also if this is the case, the whole contractor debate is going to come back up.  Using an "extra-military" approach to carry out tasks that are either unlawful or outside the military code of conduct was a pretty scary aspect of the Bush Administration's whole set up.


    I guess that (none / 0) (#32)
    by lilburro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:46:47 PM EST
    contractors wouldn't have immunity unless it was granted the way Congress granted immunity to AT&T and the other telecoms over FISA.

    There is a lawsuit going on now against CACI by four former Abu Ghraib detainees.  

    U.S. District Judge James Robertson denied CACI International's motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit on behalf of more than 200 Iraqis who at one time were detained at the Abu Ghraib prison. The Iraqis allege that the contracted CACI interrogators took part in abuses and that the company should be held liable for the harm inflicted on the detainees.

    Attorneys for the Arlington-based CACI have argued the company should be immune from such a lawsuit because it worked at the behest of the U.S. military, but Robertson said he believes a jury should hear the case, in part because CACI had its own chain of command and might not have answered directly to the military.

    The motion to dismiss was denied again on March 20 2009.


    OK Holder (none / 0) (#17)
    by squeaky on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:23:55 PM EST
    Time to do some work for us. Remember that stain Obama said he wanted to clean up?  

    Good news, hope that Holder remembers his past horror about BushCo torture.

    Leading by polling (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:27:49 PM EST

    Works for me..... (none / 0) (#22)
    by oldpro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:32:22 PM EST
    ...most of the time!

    You want the president not to care what the American people think about an important issue?

    Most of the time, public polls re issues are on my side.  Public polls called 'elections,' not so much.


    Yes, but (none / 0) (#34)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 12:51:17 PM EST
    This is such a rapid 180 that we all will have whiplash, which does not usually lead to good policy.  When positions change so fast, this often leads to what is called "flying by the seat of your pants" (See TARP, the stiumlus bill, etc.)

    For the record, I think this is the right move.


    When positions change so fast (5.00 / 0) (#37)
    by oldpro on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:01:22 PM EST
    it usually means someone has threatened to quit and make a fuss...or someone (or some group) took him to the woodshed.

    Or (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by jbindc on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:29:45 PM EST
    He didn't really have a position to begin with, but was leaning toward not prosecuting (because he doesn't know what will happen in the future and he didn't want to set a precedent), so he floated the idea via Rahm and Gibsy, and when some of the people on the left (whom he will need later) raised concerns, he backtracked.

    sounds about right (none / 0) (#40)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 01:33:59 PM EST
    to me

    Or (none / 0) (#44)
    by vicndabx on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 02:01:08 PM EST
    the sheer number of instances of torture made him look foolish for taking prosecution (or at least an investigative body) off the table.  Moving past a few instances is one thing, moving past hundreds is a whole other matter.

    Add to that, there's a bit of bluff calling happening also.


    Cheney (none / 0) (#53)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 06:57:28 PM EST
    I wonder if Obama's apaprent reversal was to any extent brought about by Cheney's self serving public pronouncements attacking Obama.  Even if not, you gotta believe the idea that Cheney may have to sweat some now is is not dissatisying to Obama.

    Truth Commission re:genocide (none / 0) (#54)
    by diogenes on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 08:07:50 PM EST
    How about a truth commission about the role of the Clinton Administration in the Rwanda Genocide, or the role of the Bush/Obama administrations vis-a-vis Darfur?  Maybe if it were illegal (negligent homicide?) to look the other way while a million people died then presidents would take it more seriously.

    Fascinating (at least for me) NY Times (none / 0) (#57)
    by Green26 on Tue Apr 21, 2009 at 10:47:23 PM EST
    article. Read this. I assume it will become a thread soon. Don't stop after the first few paragraphs; read the whole thing.


    There were lots of people and agencies, and committees, involved and informed. Looks like the idea came from the CIA, not the White House.

    People were almost panicked by 9/11, and continuing signs of another big terrorist attack.

    Mistakes were made, but this article makes it look like everyone was acting in good faith and in the interest (they thought) of the US.

    Pelosi was involved.