Obama Confirms Door Is Open for Prosecution of Authors of Torture Memos

The President hasn’t expressed objection to subjecting senior officials to investigation.

Photo courtesy of President Obama from WDCPIX

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This story first appeared on ProPublica.org.

Last week, we noted that while the administration promised not to prosecute CIA interrogators who acted within the legal limits laid out by the now-released “torture memos,” it made no such promise for the Justice Department lawyers behind the memos. In remarks to reporters today, President Barack Obama reiterated his promise and more clearly suggested that the lawyers who signed off could face legal consequences.

When the memos were released last week, the administration was silent about consequences for the Office of Legal Counsel officials who gave authoritative advice to counterterrorism agencies in those years. Much of that advice was repudiated, in waning months, by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel itself as “not sustainable,” “doubtful,” “not supported by convincing reasoning,” “highly questionable,” “not satisfactory,” “unpersuasive” and/or simply “incorrect.”

Today, the president reiterated that prosecution “would not be appropriate” for interrogators “who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House,” according to the Washington Post.

But Obama expressed no such opposition to subjecting senior officials to investigation or prosecution. While maintaining his general caution against “getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively,” he declined to reject the notion of congressional investigations or criminal prosecution.

“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,” he said. If there is going to be “a further accounting,” Congress might consider a bipartisan or independent commission, he suggested.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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