President Barack Obama left the door open Tuesday to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority for gruesome terror-suspect interrogations, saying the United States lost "our moral bearings" with use of the tactics.
The question of whether to bring charges against those who devised justification for the methods "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," Obama said. The president discussed the continuing issue of terrorism-era interrogation tactics with reporters as he finished an Oval Office meeting with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Obama also said he could support a congressional investigation into the Bush-era terrorist detainee program, but only under certain conditions, such as if it were done on a bipartisan basis. He said he worries about the impact that high-intensity, politicized hearings in Congress could have on the government's efforts to cope with terrorism.
The president had said earlier that he didn't want to see prosecutions of the CIA agents and interrogators who took part in waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, so long as they acted within parameters spelled out by government superiors who held that such practices were legal at the time.
But the administration's stance on Bush administration lawyers who actually wrote the memos approving these tactics has been less clear and Obama declined to make it so. "There are a host of very complicated issues involved," Obama said.
It was predicted that release of these memos would build the momentum for prosecutions, or at least a more serious Congressional inquiry/investigation. I'm about 100% Obama expected as much, and was prepared for at least the possibility of prosecutions when he decided to release the memos. If he wanted to foreclose prosecutions entirely for whatever reason, these memos would never have seen the light of day.