The top question on Change.gov’s “Open for Questions” feature last week asked whether President-elect Obama will appoint a special prosecutor to “independently investigate” the “greatest crimes” committed under Bush. The inquiry, submitted by Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, has received over 22,000 votes. Today, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Fertik’s question to Obama:
Q: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On change.gov it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, ‘Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.’
OBAMA:We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. … My orientation is going to be moving foward.
Obama explained that he doesn’t want CIA employees to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.” He did not specifically rule out a special prosecutor, saying, “That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law.” Watch it:
Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s choice to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, rejects Obama’s “look forward” approach. In March 2008, she told “the next president” to avoid “any temptation to simply move on”:
We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation’s honor be restored without full disclosure.
In April 2008, Obama left the door open to a special prosecutor, saying, “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.” “If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” Obama added.
On Friday’s Rachel Maddow Show, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said, “All of this ‘we need to look to the future and we have to not look to the past,’ well in our immediate past may be war crimes. And we sure better look at that.” He added:
Everything that is coming out of the Congress and the Obama administration is very worrisome. It’s not the type of stuff that would be said if you were seriously going to pursue prosecution. But they are insane to try to dodge this issue. Because if we don’t investigate this administration for war crimes and illegality — particularly war crimes — someone else might. The fact is that the rest of the world sees these as war crimes.