Obama Orders Release of Secret Memos But Strongly Signals That He Will Block Any War Crimes Investigation

225px-official_portrait_of_barack_obamatorture -abu ghraibTo his credit, President Barack Obama has rejected efforts at the CIA and National Security Council to prevent the disclosure of memos detailing torture techniques. However, the statement below appears to lay the groundwork for a decision to block any investigation into war crimes. While insisting at we are a “nation of laws,” Obama seems to refer to enforcing those laws as acts of “retribution.” It is a position that is strikingly similar to the view of pro-Taliban leaders in Pakistan who have blocked war crimes prosecutions in that country. In the meantime, Attorney General Eric Holder has promised that no CIA employee who tortured detainees will be prosecuted. I discussed the memos on this segment of Rachel Maddow.

Holder’s anouncement further shows the obstruction of any serious investigation since the threat of prosecution is a critical tool used by investigators to gain cooperation from witnesses. It is also a curious position for the Attorney General who is saying that he will not allow people to be investigated for the commission of federal crimes despite his oath to enforce those very laws without political manipulation or interference.

Office of the Press Secretary
April 16, 2009

Statement of President Barack Obama on Release of OLC Memos

The Department of Justice will today release certain memos issued by the
Office of Legal Counsel between 2002 and 2005 as part of an ongoing
court case. These memos speak to techniques that were used in the
interrogation of terrorism suspects during that period, and their
release is required by the rule of law.

My judgment on the content of these memos is a matter of record. In one
of my very first acts as President, I prohibited the use of these
interrogation techniques by the United States because they undermine our
moral authority and do not make us safer. Enlisting our values in the
protection of our people makes us stronger and more secure. A democracy
as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security
and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are
already a thing of the past.

But that is not what compelled the release of these legal documents
today. While I believe strongly in transparency and accountability, I
also believe that in a dangerous world, the United States must sometimes
carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is
classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for
that principle in court and will do so again in the future. However,
after consulting with the Attorney General, the Director of National
Intelligence, and others, I believe that exceptional circumstances
surround these memos and require their release.

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have
already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration
publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the
practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the
techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore,
withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in
the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate
accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions
about actions taken by the United States.

In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who
carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from
the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.
The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on
the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung
and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single
American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as
they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence
that they can do their jobs.

Going forward, it is my strong belief that the United States has a
solemn duty to vigorously maintain the classified nature of certain
activities and information related to national security. This is an
extraordinarily important responsibility of the presidency, and it is
one that I will carry out assertively irrespective of any political
concern. Consequently, the exceptional circumstances surrounding these
memos should not be viewed as an erosion of the strong legal basis for
maintaining the classified nature of secret activities. I will always do
whatever is necessary to protect the national security of the United

This is a time for reflection, not retribution. I respect the strong
views and emotions that these issues evoke. We have been through a dark
and painful chapter in our history. But at a time of great challenges
and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and
energy laying blame for the past. Our national greatness is embedded in
America’s ability to right its course in concert with our core values,
and to move forward with confidence. That is why we must resist the
forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common

The United States is a nation of laws. My Administration will always act
in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our
ideals. That is why we have released these memos, and that is why we
have taken steps to ensure that the actions described within them never
take place again.

The refusal to allow an investigation by a special prosecutor obstructs the enforcement of these laws, including our commitment under treaties. Obviously, Obama and Holder cannot be charged with obstruction of justice for refusing to prosecute but they are obstructing the enforcement of these laws in violation of these international agreements.

For the latest on the story, click here and here.

96 thoughts on “Obama Orders Release of Secret Memos But Strongly Signals That He Will Block Any War Crimes Investigation”

  1. Obama is playing too cozy with an absolute evil. If he allows those who have contributed to the torture of fellow human beings to go unpunished, he will be guilty of torture himself – after the fact, but guilty. Whatever the political calculation he may be making.

  2. I’m going to state this again – differently.

    Holder’s response about prosecutions, begging the high sign from the administration, has to do with the establishment of time lines pre-memo vs. post – ie by use of the worda “In advance”…

    Obama uses the term ‘policy differences’ therby avoiding avoiding the assertion that the policy was fashioned around the position, because he doesn’t KNOW that.

    There IS a difference, and it doesn’t stand firmly on its own merit, in my view.

    Also, you don’t remove a person’s possible defenses against prosection and judgments by Foreign courts OR even State courts by giving them a Federal pardon, which in effect, constitutes an admission by the mere acceptance of same.

    And you can’t pardon people without their acceptance. Potential pardons, usually, go through an in-depth application process instituted BY the potential recipient… There have been questionable exceptions, I might add.

    George Bush didn’t even try that tactic before leaving office, as many predicted, ie feared, he would.

    In fact, I dared him to try…! 😉

    Again, a liability insurance policy does not exist for illegal acts. While this may seem to be a minor issue, I can pretty much assure it isn’t…

  3. Thank you Bob and FFLEO!

    This is good news. I was thinking– why couldn’t Obama do what Bruce Fein said. He could issue a pardon to all the low level officers if and only if they gave a complete account of their actions. Should that account ever be found to have been imcomplete, the pardon would be void and they would serve hard time.

    Further, theee men and women should be fired from jobs in our govt. They are welcome to keep their pensions but having people in one’e govt. who are willing to torture is a recipe for disaster.

    I’m so happy that the international community isn’t just rolling over on this. The US uses many clubs on other nations–it’s how we got the “coalition of the willing”–through the use of threats. So it is impressive that the UN, and poassably Spain and Poland will take us on.

  4. For those like me who had a very limited understanding of what a Rapporteur is/does mentioned in Bob, Esq’s post.(okay I did not have a clue)

    Quote from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Special_Rapporteur

    United Nations Special Rapporteur

    Special Rapporteur is a title given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations who bear a specific mandate from the UN Human Rights Council (or the former UN Commission on Human Rights, UNCHR), to investigate, monitor and recommend solutions to human rights problems. They are also called “Special Procedures”.

    Appointed by the UN Secretary General, these experts are “of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human rights.” They act independently of governments. They do not receive any financial compensation for their work, but they receive personnel and logistical support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Some of these experts are called Special Representatives or Independent Experts.

    Special Rapporteurs often conduct fact-finding missions to countries to investigate allegations of human rights violations. They can only visit countries that have agreed to invite them.

    Aside from fact-finding missions, Rapporteurs regularly assess and verify complaints from alleged victims of human rights violations. Once a complaint is verified as legitimate, an urgent letter or appeal is sent to the government that has allegedly committed the violation

  5. gets?

    Man, my fingers are still drunk.

    If one ever finds themselves in Lawrence, KS, might I suggest a visit to the Freestate Brewery. The Ad Astra Ale, the Stromwatch Ale and the Backus Barleywine (their spelling) are three of the finer cereal malt beverages I’ve ever had pleasure to imbibe. Watch out for the barleywine though. It’s got a kick.

  6. Bob,

    Most excellent. Let’s gets as much international pressure as possible so as to force Obama’s hand on the Neocons who placed the order. Too bad Spain’s AG is a lightweight. Let’s hope Judge Garzón, a past friend to liberty, comes through again.

  7. BVM,
    Damn but in your simplicity of thought it really is hard to figure you out. You’re getting more trollish again.

  8. “I’ll do whatever I can to pressure the Justice Department to do the right thing, but I’m sorry to say I don’t share the optimism that others here do”

    Stay with it. Hope don’t come easy, but commitment at least drives away helpless feelings. The greatest enemy we all have is the belief that we are powerless to change our lives and/or the world around us. This is a message we are being fed by the people who have the most to gain. They are awash in greed and the lust for power. It makes their life easier if we leave it at “you can’t fight City Hall.” We owe ourselves and our fellow humans the duty to try to make our country and humanity the best it can be.

  9. Excerpt from:

    “Will They Be Prosecuted?”
    by Scott Horton


    “Within a period of only a few hours, however, Judge Garzón issued an opinion on the matter. He rejected the application for a transfer to Judge Moreno saying he disagreed with the prosecutors’ analysis and felt the case should remain in his hands. However, recognizing the prosecutors’ objection, Garzón referred the case to the chief judge of the Audiencia Nacional’s penal chamber to make the final call as to whom the case should be referred. The case of the Bush Six is therefore now back in the court’s assignment system.

    Lawyers familiar with Audiencia Nacional practices advise me that the chief judge usually decides questions about the referral of cases extremely quickly, in a matter of only a few days. If that holds in this case, then next week we should learn the identity of the judge who will decide whether the Bush Six case will move into the next phase of criminal investigation, or will be dropped.”

  10. Bush can be question for the Lies told to Home Owners to get them to sell there home for Presidential Library.

    So this is a civil action. Of course his attorneys are appealing the decision.

  11. Jonathan, I am disappointed in your interview on Rachel Maddow’s show. I think there is room for investigating three things:
    1. Whether anyone exceeded the orders based on the findings of the OLC.
    2. Whether anyone who could not- should not have- in “good faith” believe(d) the findings of the OLC participated in these activities.
    3. What the culpability of the people who wrote the memos is.
    And I think they will be investigated. I’d like to hear why you think they won’t. I didn’t hear that on Rachel’s show; she asked you directly about the third and you didn’t give a response that passed my standards.

    While emotionally, I’d like to see these people hang high, it’s called the rule of law because it’s the rule of law. If you don’t like the law, that’s OK, I don’t either. Get it changed. But please don’t ignore what’s really going on in order to comment on what’s going on that you don’t like (and I don’t either). We have to keep some connection to reality here.

  12. Pay attention to what I’ve said…

    I am no idiot in matters of politics, as many others here, obviously, are!


  13. For the record, I am no longer in the military. I finished up and decided to attend college.

    Many people seem optimistic that the door isn’t shut on this decision. Call me cynical, but I really don’t think that raising hell on the Internet and giving my Congressmen and Senators a few calls and emails is going to change anything. The real power can only come from large PACs and whatnot, and the only one willing to stand up for the American people is the ACLU. Unfortunately for all Americans, the ACLU either runs a terrible PR campaign or the GOP/right wing runs an outstanding smear campaign against them. I guess there could also be leftover fear/distrust/contempt for the ACLU leftover from the Cold War, though I did not live through any of that so I can’t really comment (all I know is that the ACLU was associated with the “Reds” and we all know how much Americans hate “Reds”). I’ll do whatever I can to pressure the Justice Department to do the right thing, but I’m sorry to say I don’t share the optimism that others here do.

    My fear is that President Obama, who is failing in so many ways to change the status quo, will ruin any chances that progressives have for the future in the way that Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society did.

  14. If I may offer unsolicited advice, well are we not all doing it.

    I do not agree that if Obama is doing the same things that Bush and Co is being complained about should be made aright.

    I voted for Ralph Nader, so I say this with all sincerity. The issue of being president or not is a moot point. He is in fact the president. Just like Bush stole the first election from Florida which eventually cost him his brothers job. His best friend and political mentor ran against him as a Democrat and won. You tell me how that played out.

    The second time Bush stole the election was in OHIO. You tell me that it was not stolen when UNEMPLOYMENT was at an all time high. Plants were shutting down that a Republican won this state? Come on, they are still finding ballot boxes that were not counted.

    The fact is BUSH stole the elections Johnson style. Well in Grander style than Johnson, more people were watching. Waiting for the miscreant to do it again. So, since he was the President and he needed justification for keeping his job. He did what he had to do.

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