Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

April 22, 2009


McClatchy - Under pressure, President Barack Obama reversed statements from his own top White House aides and opened the door to prosecuting Bush administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists. Obama repeated his stand that CIA officers should be immune from criminal charges for their work interrogating suspects using techniques such as waterboarding, which critics call torture, so long as the interrogators followed guidelines written by senior Bush administration legal officials. He said, however, that he'd leave it to Attorney General Eric Holder to decide whether Bush administration officials should face criminal charges for approving the use of such practices. . .

His statement that his administration might prosecute members of the Bush administration caught Washington by surprise, directly contradicting comments made two days before by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and raising questions about why Obama abruptly changed course.

On Sunday, Emanuel told ABC News that Obama would extend his immunity from prosecution beyond CIA officers to policymakers. He said the president believed "those who devised policy . . . should not be prosecuted either . . . . It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.". . .

Inside, some administration officials raised concerns that Obama had overstepped proper legal boundaries by unilaterally declaring that the Justice Department would take no action.

At his confirmation hearing in January, Holder told the Senate he didn't think the president had the power to immunize anyone from being prosecuted for acts of torture.

"No one is above the law," Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are obligations that we have as a result of treaties that we have signed, obligations, obviously, in the Constitution. Where Congress has passed a law, it is the obligation of the president, or the commander-in-chief, to follow those laws."


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