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So Much for "Looking forward." Obama Flips Again.

There is one thing we count on when it comes to Barack Obama, and that is he can never be counted on. All those CIA operatives that he spoke to yesterday to reassure them after his release of the classified interrogation memos need to realize that he will not keep his promise to them for long. If it becomes politically expedient for Obama to sell them out and prosecute them for protecting our country, he will do it. There was a time when he said he wouldn't prosecute other Bush administration officials for the use of tough interrogation techniques. He's reversed himself on that now. From ABC News:

President Obama suggested today that it remained a possibility that the Justice Department might bring charges against officials of the Bush administration who devised harsh interrogation policies that some see as torture.

He also suggested that if there is any sort of investigation into these past policies and practices, he would be more inclined to support an independent commission outside the typical congressional hearing process.

Both statements represented breaks from previous White House statements on the matter.

Calling the Bush-era memos providing legal justifications for enhanced interrogation methods "reflected us losing our moral bearings," the president said that he did not think it was "appropriate" to prosecute those CIA officers who "carried out some of these operations within the four corners of the legal opinions or guidance that had been provided by the White House."

But in clear change from language he and members of his administration have used in the past, the president said that "with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say 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."

Just yesterday, asked by a reporter as to why the administration was not seeking to "hold accountable" Bush administration lawyers who may have "twisted the law," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "the President is focused on looking forward, that's why."

So much for "looking forward." But to prosecute Bush administration officials for tough interrogation techniques puts at least one big Democrat in the cross hairs. Ed Morrissey outlines the quandary the president will find himself in:

Obama can open the door to prosecutions, but who will he prosecute? He'll find it difficult to go after the interrogators, who relied on some strange opinions from the normally-binding Office of Legal Counsel. The prosecution can try undermining that by claiming it as a Nuremberg defense, but this wasn't Nazi Germany and the OLC exists to give this kind of legal direction. Interrogators relied on those interpretations in good faith.

That leaves George Tenet and the OLC attorneys, but they didn't conduct the torture, and the OLC didn't order the interrogations, either. They responded to a request from the CIA to opine on the legality of the procedures. Holder can prosecute Tenet, but then he'd also have to file charges against several members of Congress who were briefed on the procedures and never objected -- including current Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If Tenet would get prosecuted for ordering the interrogation techniques, then Pelosi and others would have to get prosecuted for being accessories in not taking action to stop them.

This could get very sticky for the president if he allows Attorney General Eric Holder to go through with this.

Stephen Hayes weighs in on Obama's releasing of the classified memos at The Weekly Standard:

This is Obama's arrogance at its worst. The president and his advisers seem to think that because the world loves him -- and because he remains popular here at home, too -- his decisions will escape serious scrutiny.

This should be the end of the Obama honeymoon. The country has debated the politicization of intelligence for the last seven years. In that time, we have probably never seen such a clear example of that phenomenon. And though most reporters would surely agree with Obama on enhanced interrogation, they cannot give him a pass on this. It should be a very, very uncomfortable day for Robert Gibbs today.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has formally requested that information from the interrogations be declassified. Early signs from the Obama administration indicate that they will be unlikely to do this. Why? That's unclear. But Obama officials don't think they have to worry. Why? Obama is really, really popular.

And that is what Obama's presidency is all about.


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Comments (28)

I found it pretty revealing... (Below threshold)

I found it pretty revealing that even partisan hack Leon Panetta disagreed with Obama's decision to make these as public as he did.

But it's not like there's any reason Obama would want to distract attention from what he's doing and keep attention on the evil Bush, right?

All Obama promises have exp... (Below threshold)

All Obama promises have expiration dates.

Some shorter, some longer.

This is going nowhere. If t... (Below threshold)

This is going nowhere. If there's ever a move to prosecute all those who signed off on "torture" (however ill-defined), there's a lot of Dems who would go down, too.

So bring it on.

I hereby call for the immed... (Below threshold)

I hereby call for the immediate prosecution of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees for complicity in torture. They all knew about it, they all signed off on it, they all approved it.

So, what did they know and when did they know it?

Let the televised hearings begin!

I hereby call for the im... (Below threshold)
Brian:

I hereby call for the immediate prosecution of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees for complicity in torture. They all knew about it, they all signed off on it, they all approved it.

Hear, hear! Along with Bush, Cheney, Gonzalez, and the complicit Dem and Rep members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

It's amusing that you think it's some kind of "gotcha" to point out that some Dems knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. Throw their asses in prison also.

Obama isn't stupid enough t... (Below threshold)
Phil:

Obama isn't stupid enough to go after lawyers who gave their opinion. Also, it would be a political disaster for him. We all watched on television what happened on 9-11.

Go ahead and do it Barry. Dare you.

There is plenty of evidence... (Below threshold)
Patrick:

There is plenty of evidence to show that members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees knew about these enhanced interrogation techniques and they raised no objections. Some even asked if the CIA was going far enough. But as always with Democrats in particular they feel (often successfully) that can change their position when it becomes politically convenient for them to do so. Here is an article showing that they knew:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/08/AR2007120801664.html

If there is going to be any prosecution than let us get EVERYBODY who knew about all this AND that includes those in Congress who did not object when it was the most relevant time to do so. If people like Pelosi and Rockefeller will face potential prosecution than I suspect we will never see any such trials. But if they are not included than it is just nothing more than a political sham. And I am tired of seeing articles like this and no criticism from the left for people like Pelosi who knew and said nothing. The fact that she didn't object to the enhanced interrogation techniques for me is the only thing she has ever done that I agree with...

It is one thing for The New... (Below threshold)
kathie:

It is one thing for The New York Times to publish classified material, it is quite another for the United State government to do the same. When the United States government says that it has tortured terrorists, then there are legal consequences here and internationally for that proclamation. This is why Bush never conceded to comments on torture, because he did not speak as an individual but as the government. There is only one person, and the congress of the United States, both houses, that can be brought to trial on these charges and that is President Bush. Why would lawyers be tried for their opinions? Bush gave the orders! The CIA agents are already off the table. I think that this is the can of worms that Obama has opened. Surely he knew this before he stood as the President of the United States and proclaimed that George Bush tortured terrorists.

Bring it on Butthead Barry!... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Bring it on Butthead Barry! You do not have the cajones. Because you know where this will lead. A lot of classified documents coming out in the open. Some risking our national security. Bring it on. Bring.It.On. ww

It's amusing that you th... (Below threshold)
Tim:

It's amusing that you think it's some kind of "gotcha" to point out that some Dems knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. Throw their asses in prison also.

What's really amusing is that the Dems who knew what was going on and signed off on it are the ones who wants investigations of those who knew what was going on and signed off on it. Well, not all the people who knew what was going on and signed off on it, just the eeeevil ones.

It's amusing that ... (Below threshold)
It's amusing that you think it's some kind of "gotcha" to point out that some Dems knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it

Heh. Of course it's a 'gotcha'. You didn't for one second think that when Obama or one of his flunkies raises the question about prosecutions for "torture", that they meant Democrats, did you?? You don't actually think it means anything other than "Hot dog! Let's beat up on some Republicans", do you?

And when it finally becomes clear to them how many Democrats signed off on it, you actually think they won't sweep it under the rug and pretend it never was an issue?

You're getting mixed up. He... (Below threshold)
john:

You're getting mixed up. He said officials of the Bush admin NOT the CIA. Presumably that means people like Yoo. I'm sure these guys and maybe Cheney and Bush are starting to get nervous about this although it will probably come to nothing. The bottom line is the approved conduct that was illegal by US and international statutes and breached the Geneva conventions which we signed.

And the effort to shift bla... (Below threshold)
john:

And the effort to shift blame to Pelosi and con ain't going to fly. They informed them but they had no exec authority and once they'd passed on classified info they couldn't make it public.

When has that ever stopped ... (Below threshold)
hermie:

When has that ever stopped a member of Congress from leaking info, or just partisan showboating...like Rockefeller and Leahy?

If they had serious concerns about 'torture', they had either an obligation to stop it, or make it public. If the NYT can print government secrets without penalty, why not a Democrat with a political agenda?


Putting a caterpillar in a ... (Below threshold)
Tim:

Putting a caterpillar in a cell is not illegal unless said caterpillar was on the Endangered Species list. And it's still probably not illegal because they didn't even put the damn thing in the terrorist's cell, they just told him they might. I would have thought Al Qaeda types would be a little tougher than to be scared of a little caterpillar. Imagine the panic if it turned into a butterfly right before his eyes.

John, you could not be more... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

John, you could not be more wrong. So much so, it isn't worth trying to educate you. Read a book. ww

"When the United States gov... (Below threshold)
Bill:

"When the United States government says that it has tortured terrorists, then there are legal consequences here and internationally for that proclamation."

Torture? What torture? These memos, to me, prove that this has all been much ado about nothing. If this is torture, then the whole plebe class at Annapolis had better be flying their lawyers to the Hague! Torture my fanny.

Or do you care that thousands of Los Angelenos are alive today because a little water up his snoot made KSM reveal the Library Tower attack plot?

A caterpiller???? It woul... (Below threshold)
mag:

A caterpiller???? It would make me spill my guts, but I can not imagine any man I know thinking that would be consider torture.


Those who know nothing abou... (Below threshold)

Those who know nothing about the Geneva Conventions really should not be pontificating about violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Hey John, the creatures in question are specifically excluded from GC protections.

What was your point again?

I just posted my comment on... (Below threshold)
Stephanie Jones:

I just posted my comment on Politico on this issue and I am going to repeat here . . .

You people are a massive trip. I don't know the number, but I would suspect that A MAJORITY of these of folks plotted or knew others that conspired to TEAR THIS NATION DOWN! THESE FOLKS COME UP WITH S*** THAT NONE OF US COULD EVER CONCEIVE TO KILL US. I don't give a fat rat's behind what happens to them. FOLKS DIED HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE DEATHS: HAVING TO CHOOSE BETWEEN JUMPING OUT OF A 30 FLOOR WINDOW OR BEING BURNED TO DEATH IN 2001. YOU PEOPLE ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. WHERE THE HELL IS YOUR CONCERN FOR THOSE FOLKS, HUH?

YOU ALL MAKE SICK! Find something else to screw with Bush about, because the fact that you are able to come on this Web site and say all this bulls*** means he kept you safe from the T E R R O R I S T S!

Any statement that Obama ma... (Below threshold)
Herman:

Any statement that Obama may have made suggesting letting the Republican torturers get away with their illegal, wicked shit was a mistake. Fortunately, Obama has rectified his mistake.

Conservatives, although I know this will come as a surprise to you, liberals do on rare occasion make mistakes. Heck, why just today I found out about a mistake that I had been making for years. I had thought that God does not exist. Just within the past hour I have determined that not only does He exist, but that He goes by the name of Danny MacAskill: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z19zFlPah-o

The important thing is to learn from your mistakes, conservatives, something you seldom seem to do.

Bring on the trials. By th... (Below threshold)
Jonathan:

Bring on the trials. By the time Oliver North and Brendan Sullivan were done with Congress they wish they had never started the fight they started. Could you imagine a trial that went on for weeks and consumed vast amounts of the daily news cycle? Wouldn't that consume time that could be spent advancing the Democratic Party's agenda? A trial is different from a Congressional Hearing where pontificating politicians interrupt at will. I believe that every elected Congressman and Senator would fight a subpoena until they themselves were dead. All of them would decline to answer questions under oath.

Oh come on, do you really t... (Below threshold)
Ryan Gandy:

Oh come on, do you really think those memos are going to be declassified? Obama - and his base - have survived on absolute hatred and loathing of the Bush administration. The guy is not going to want to let out anything that could, if not vindicate George's stance on torture right off the bat, at least make him seem to be anything less than the inhuman monster he's been painted as for years by the left.

And as far as I see it, Barry is not going to want Republicans regarded as anything other than the Ebola virus just yet.

Its all about his keeping the focus off himself.

Even when a person is sente... (Below threshold)
Rajan:

Even when a person is sentenced to capital punishment for committing the most heinous crime, a civilized society demands that the method of execution must be as painless and swift as possible to the condemned person. Even the lethal injection which is widely used in this "civilized"(!) country has been challenged countless number of times in the Supreme Court for the cruelty it is supposed to inflict during the last few moments of the executed person's life.

One wonders what sort of mental makeup the interrogator should have to sit quietly and comfortably in his chair (possibly with a Cuban cigar dangling from his mouth - most these interrogations were conducted in GITMO on Cuban soil, weren't they?), supervise the prisoner being water-boarded 183 times and enjoy watching him undergo death throes 183 times. What is the difference between the acts of these interrogators and those of the notorious Nazi concentration camp guards who are being hounded from their deathbeds to be brought to justice even after six decades, day in day out?

Do the ends always justify the means?

BTW, what was the real motive behind Obama's move to make these memos public now? One day he goes to the CIA headquarters and assures the concerned CIA operatives that they will not be charged with any crime for employing these interrogation methods and the next day he tells the media that he is open to prosecute/punish those responsible, subject to the opinion of the Attorney General. He could have simply stopped with banning these abhorrent interrogation procedures thru an executive order but left the incriminating memos to rest in archives for classified documents until they will be inevitably exhumed by historians decades later, if they do not become public under the 30-year rule in the meanwhile. Was it just to paint and portray his predecessor in the worst possible light even while he is still alive?

If Obama allows this to pro... (Below threshold)
Weegie:

If Obama allows this to proceed, if he permits this witchhunt, Soviet show trial of Bush to occur, then I will consider myself to be in rebellion to a criminal administration.

You cannot declare, years after the fact, that something is illegal, without benefit of any actual legal rulings, and prosecute someone for it. That smacks of persecution and unlawful prosecution.

Obama is treading on dangerous ground here. Is he too stupid to realize it?

Weegie -He's certa... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Weegie -

He's certainly (well, apparently) setting a precedent that I think is the wrong one. If a specific decision can be cause for litigation long after the fact, then ALL decisions are open to such review.

So what will be next? Suing Clinton for his unilateral decision to intervene in Bosnia? Bush for the ecological traumas of GW1? How about the remaining folks of the Nixon and Johnson administrations for their use of defoliants in the VietNam war? Or the very few remaining that worked on the staffs of those who decided wholesale carpet bombing would be the way to go during WW2?

No, this sets a very bad precedent, and opens up one hell of a can of worms for future administrations.

TORTURE is illegal and ther... (Below threshold)
j:

TORTURE is illegal and therefore a crime no matter how you look at it. In America, criminals are prosecuted and punished according to the law. If as a nation of civilized Christians, we condone torture just as we believe our Islamist enemy does, then we are no better than any barbaric society, be it Christian or Islamist.

The Bush era disdain for th... (Below threshold)
NowYouHaveDoneIt:

The Bush era disdain for the US laws and Constitution require a response. Dick Cheney is not the Viceroy to King George. I say look at their deeds and decide on LAWS if any were broken. Then go a prosecute, to borrow a few miss words, the evil-doers.




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