Thursday, April 23, 2009
Shifting ground in the face of a growing uproar, President Barack Obama opened the door Tuesday to possible criminal prosecution of senior Bush… administration officials who provided the legal rationale for harsh interrogation techniques used against terrorism suspects. And for the first time, Obama laid out a blueprint for using an independent commission, not congressional hearings, to examine the interrogation policies crafted by top officials in the Bush administration and carried out by CIA officers in secret prisons overseas.
While Obama again sought to reassure rank-and-file CIA employees that they would not face prosecution, the administration’s changing positions have heightened anxiety at the agency and raised the prospect that Bush administration officials tied to the interrogation program could remain under a cloud of scrutiny for months to come.
On Monday, Obama had offered personal assurances that there would be no prosecutions of officers who applied the rough techniques, which included striking prisoners in the face, confining them in coffin-size boxes and repeated water-boarding. And as recently as Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel declared in a television interview that no prosecutions were envisioned for those who provided the legal justification for the harsh tactics.