Turley: Torture investigation would ‘go directly to the doorstep of President Bush’

Hat tip: Raw Story
By David Edwards and Muriel Kane

President Barack Obama’s release on Thursday of four Bush administration memos sanctioning torture has been widely praised. However, questions have been raised by the statements from both him and Attorney General Eric Holder that they have no intention of prosecuting the low-level CIA officers who carried out the tortures.

“How about prosecuting the people who did the sanctioning, then?” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow wondered. She asked constititutional law professor Jonathan Turley whether Obama’s statement that “this is a time for reflection, not retribution” means he’s “promising to not prosecute officials who sanctioned torture.”

“It’s very hard to say,” Turley replied. “But what is really disturbing is that … he’s equating the enforcement of federal laws, that he took an oath to enforce … with an act of retribution in some sort of hissy fit or blame game.”

“It’s not retribution to enforce criminal laws,” insisted Turley. “What it is is obstruction to prevent that enforcement — and that is exactly what he’s done thus far. He’s trying to lay the groundwork to look principled when he’s doing an utterly unprincipled thing.”

“There aren’t any ‘convenient’ or inconvenient times to investigate war crimes,” Turley emphasized. “You don’t have a choice. … You have an obligation to do it.”

Turley believes that Obama is backing off from any investigation of war crimes “because an investigation will go directly to the doorstep of President Bush … and there’s not going to be a lot of defenses that could be raised for ordering a torture program.”

The ACLU, which obtained the release of the memos, is now calling for a special prosecutor, and Turley believes that “is the right way to go.”

“If he wants to guarantee that it’s not retribution, and not the blame game, all he has to do is pick an independent person, someone who is manifestly not partisan, and have them make a decision based on the law,” Turley suggested. “Give it to a career prosecutor and ask him to take the investigation wherever illegality may be found.”

This video is from MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Apr. 16, 2009.

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