'That's not their decision to make.'

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Isikoff: Justice Dept. may pursue torture probes anyway


RAW STORY April 21, 2009

The Obama administration has made it clear that it has no intention of prosecuting individual CIA officers who acted in good faith under the Bush administration's torture memos, and White House advisor Rahm Emanuel stated on Sunday that the officials who devised the policy "should not be prosecuted either." However, the desires of the White House do not control the Justice Department.

Journalist Michael Isikoff, who has been talking with Justice Department officials, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Monday, "Just listening to some of the comments in the last few days, particularly from Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs about how the president is focused on looking forward, not backward, and he is not interested in seeing these people prosecuted, there are some people in the Justice Department who are listening to that and saying, 'That's not their decision to make. Decisions about criminal prosecutions are made by the Justice Department based on the facts and the law.'"

(continuation of Isikoff: Justice Dept. may pursue torture probes anyway):  

"There's actually sort of a taboo," Isikoff added, "about the White House meddling and dictating to the Justice Department about who should be investigated and who shouldn't."

According to an article by Isikoff and Evan Thomas in the current issue of Newsweek,"Senior Justice Department lawyers and other advisers, who declined to be identified discussing a sensitive subject, say Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has discussed naming a senior prosecutor or outside counsel to review whether CIA interrogators exceeded legal boundaries-and whether Bush administration officials broke the law by giving the CIA permission to torture in the first place."

As the furor over the torture memos grew on Monday, even the White House began backtracking on Emanuel's remarks. According to the New York Times, "Administration officials said Monday that Mr. Emanuel had meant the officials who ordered the policies carried out, not the lawyers who provided the legal rationale. Three Bush administration lawyers who signed memos ... are the subjects of a coming report by the Justice Department's ethics office that officials say is sharply critical of their work."

"The administration has also not ruled out prosecuting anyone who exceeded the legal guidelines," the Times added, "and officials have discussed appointing a special prosecutor. One option might be giving the job to John H. Durham, a federal prosecutor who has spent 15 months investigating the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations."

Petitions requesting Holder to appoint a special prosecutor have already sprung up at such liberal sites as FireDogLake and MoveOn.org.

"People at the Justice Department have been wrestling with this issue for some time," Isikoff emphasized to Maddow. "Senator Carl Levin ... had recommended to Holder, the attorney general, appointing a outside lawyer, retired federal judge, somebody to look at all the evidence here and reach conclusions as to whether or not criminal misconduct may have taken place. ... Holder has been weighing that idea as a possibility. ... People at the Justice Department are taking this very seriously."

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Apr. 20, 2009.

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This page contains a single entry published on April 21, 2009 11:30 AM.

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