[Guest post by DRJ]
I noted last week that Obama’s national security positions seem to be evolving closer to President Bush’s policies. The trend continues this week as two of his advisers confirmed Obama may not support war crime charges against those involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogation techniques like waterboarding:
“Two Obama advisers said there’s little – if any – chance that the incoming president’s Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.
The advisers spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are still tentative. A spokesman for Obama’s transition team did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Additionally, the question of whether to prosecute may never become an issue if Bush issues pre-emptive pardons to protect those involved.”
Compare that with what Obama said last April when reporter Will Bunch asked him where he stood on investigating the Bush Administration for war crimes:
“I mentioned the [waterboarding] report in my question, and said “I know you’ve talked about reconciliation and moving on, but there’s also the issue of justice, and a lot of people — certainly around the world and certainly within this country — feel that crimes were possibly committed” regarding torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping. I wanted to know how whether his Justice Department “would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed.”
Here’s his [Obama's] answer, in its entirety:
“What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You’re also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.
So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment — I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General — having pursued, having looked at what’s out there right now — are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it’s important– one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween [sic] really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I’ve said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law — and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.”
The bottom line is that: Obama sent a clear signal that — unlike impeachment, which he’s ruled out and which now seems a practical impossibility — he is at the least open to the possibility of investigating potential high crimes in the Bush White House. To many, the information that waterboarding — which the United States has considered torture and a violation of law in the past — was openly planned out in the seat of American government is evidence enough to at least start asking some tough questions in January 2009.”
It sounds as if there may not be an investigation by the Attorney General regarding interrogation techniques if the statements by Obama’s advisers are accurate. Of course, this isn’t a final or definitive statement but it’s easy to engage in partisan attacks when your party is out of power. I suspect Obama and his advisers are having second thoughts about the downside of talking tough when the buck stops with them.