Obama pledge not to prosecute CIA interrogators draws criticism

US President Barack Obama April 16 issued a statement asserting his intention not to investigate individuals who used or authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques”—the same day the Department of Justice released memos outlining CIA use of these techniques. The president urged the country to look forward, rather than to the past, saying:

We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values, and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future.

Obama’s statement was met with criticism from several civil liberties and human rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for an investigation, saying, “When crimes have been committed, the American legal system demands accountability.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged the administration to investigate those who authorized torture. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) expressed “deepest disappointments” in the administration’s decision. The chairmen of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Judiciary Committee [official websites] released statements urging the administration to investigate those who authorized enhanced interrogation techniques.

Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released a final version of a report calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether any criminal laws were violated. In March, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also called for an investigation into Bush administration policies through the formation of a “truth commission.” (Jurist, April 17)

See our last post on the torture scandal.

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