It’s looking increasingly like I was right – he is playing a long game:
Senior members of the Bush administration who approved the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation measures could face prosecution, President Obama disclosed today .
He said the use of torture reflected America “losing our moral bearings”.
He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guantánamo and secret prisons around the world.
But for the first time today he opened up the possibility that those in the administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding could be prosecuted.
The revelation will enrage senior Bush administration figures such as the former vice-president Dick Cheney.
The Obama administration views the use of waterboarding as torture, while Cheney claims it is not.
Obama, taking questions from the press during a visit by King Abdullah of Jordan, reiterated he did not believe in prosecution of those CIA agents who carried out the interrogations within the guidelines set down for them. But “with respect to shoe who formulated” the policies, “that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws”. He added: “I don’t want to prejudge that.”He also opened the way for a Congressional inquiry into the issue.
It’s a dangerous political game, trying to appease vested interests in the CIA and on the political right by not going for the flunkies, whilst implicitly begging for the political capital to go essentially after the ‘Bush Six’ – the men who wrote the memos authorising torture. It also explains why the Spanish Attorney-General is now eager to drop that country’s criminal proceedings. I think Andrew Sullivan is right when he says of Obama’s release of the memos and Cheney’s push to get more released:
this seems to me to be a real opportunity to set up the Truth Commission many of us have been asking for. Release all the data on the torture – all of it – alongside the intelligence we got from it. At least then we will have the data needed to see this in full perspective. It needs to be in context and it needs to be assessed by an independent panel – bipartisan and widely respected – along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. Decisions to prosecute could be made after all the material is laid out. This will take time – and should be done carefully and exhaustively.