Obama Administration: No Prosecution of Officials for Bush-Era Torture Policy

By Jennifer Parker

Apr 19, 2009 11:21am

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said during our exclusive interview Sunday on "This Week"  that President Barack Obama will not pursue the prosecution of Bush-era officials who devised torture policy against detainees, as laid out in memos the Obama administration released this week.

Earlier in the interview, I asked Emanuel about a series of officials, including former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who have criticized the Obama administration’s decision to release the Bush-era memos outlining torture techniques of detainees.

"First of all, we banned these techniques and practices. Banned them because we didn’t think they were consistent with American security and its values," Emanuel said on "This Week."

"Second is, we’ve enhanced America’s image abroad. These were tools used to by terrorists, propaganda tools, to recruit new terrorists. And the fact is having changed America’s image, does have an impact on our security and safety to make us stronger.

"Let me say this, one of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out was that much of the information was already out. So if they’re saying that you’ve basically exposed something, it’s been written . Go get the New York Review of books. It’s there. So the notion that somehow we’re exposing something — it’s already out. In fact President Bush  let a lot, a lot of this information out. So the notion that somehow this is all of a sudden a game-changer, doesn’t take cognizance that its already in the system and in the public domain. Therefore, it’s not new. So the notion that that is something we’ve broken, it’s already been there. Number two, it’s why al Qaeda, it’s one of the key tools that al Qaeda has used for recruitment. There has been net cost to America. By changing the way American is seen in the world, which means banning this technique and practice, we have actually stopped them and then prevented them from using it as a rallying cry."

I asked Emanuel: "The president has ruled out prosecution for CIA officials who believed they were following the law. Does he believe that the officials who devised the policies should be immune from prosecution?"

"He believes that, look, as you saw in that statement he wrote, let’s just take a step back. He came up with this and worked on this for about four weeks. Wrote that statement Wednesday night after he had made his decision and dictated what he wanted to see. And Thursday morning I saw him in the office, he was still editing it. He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided," Emanuel said.

What about those who devised the policy, I asked?

"Yeah, but those who devised the policy, he believes that they were, should not be prosecuted either," Emanuel said.

"And it’s not the place that we go, and as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people  look at the full statement, not the letter, the statement, and that second paragraph: "This is not a time for retribution. It’s a time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and in a sense of anger and retribution.’ We have a lot to do to protect America. But what people need to know? This practice and technique, we don’t use anymore. We banned it."

Later on "This Week," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he agrees with the president’s decision not to prosecute Bush administration officials who devised the torture policy.

"We just heard from Mr. Emanuel that the president wants to move forward, no prosecution for officials who devised the policy," I said to Boehner.

Well I think that’s one area, area that I can agree with the president on," Boehner said. "But I think the release of these memos is dangerous. And I agree with what Leon Panetta had to say when he made it clear that he thought this would hamper our ability to get information from terrorists and get other countries to work with us."

–George Stephanopoulos

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