Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Obama administration on Thursday informed CIA officials who engaged in such harsh interrogation tactics as waterboarding on terror suspects that they will not be prosecuted.
Even before President Barack Obama took office in January, aides signaled his administration was not likely to bring criminal charges against CIA employees for their roles in the secret, coercive terrorist interrogation program. It had been deemed legal at the time through opinions issued by the Justice Department under the Bush administration.
But the statement issued Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is the first definitive assurance that those CIA officials are in the clear, as long as their actions were in line with the legal advice at the time.
The Hail Mary pass is seen by the human rights community as the first step in establishing a legal precedent that will be used by former members of the Bush administration if they are charged with authorizing torture by a court of law at some future date.
On Tuesday, Spanish prosecutors decided to move forward with a criminal investigation targeting former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and five other Bush administration associates over their role in the torture of five Spanish citizens held at Guantánamo Bay.
In addition to Gonzales, they include: Federal Appeals Court Judge and former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, University of California law professor and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, former Defense Department general counsel and current Chevron lawyer William J. Haynes II, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith.