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Obama Hints At Torture Investigation: ‘We Are Moving A Process Forward’

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"Obama Hints At Torture Investigation: ‘We Are Moving A Process Forward’"

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Earlier this month, a Spanish court said it would consider opening a criminal case against six Bush administration officials “over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo.” The Spanish attorney general said today that he would not recommend a case, but Judge Baltazar Garzon “will decide whether to press ahead with a criminal investigation.”

Thus far, Obama administration officials have tried to skirt questions on the matter. On Tuesday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded, “We may have some reaction based on what ultimately happens.” Today, CNN’s Juan Carlos Lopez asked Obama about the investigation ahead of his trip to Mexico. Obama repeated his desire to look forward:

OBAMA: I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there. So I have not had direct conversations with the Spanish government about these issues. My team has been in communications with them.

Obama did, however, say he was aware of a “process” moving forward in the U.S. to “understand” what happened under Bush. Notably, he did not endorse or rule out an investigation or commission:

I think that we are moving a process forward here in the United States to understand what happened, but also to focus on how we make sure that the manner in which we operate currently is consistent with our values and our traditions.

Obama concluded: “And so my sense is, is that this will be worked out over time.” Watch it:

It’s unclear what process Obama is referring to. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) has prominently called for a truth commission to investigate Bush-era abuses, but he is uncertain whether it can proceed. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) recently called for “congressional investigations,” “a blue ribbon commission, or “independent criminal probes to be conducted by federal prosecutors.”

Attorney General Eric Holder told Katie Couric last week that a commission is something that “Senator Leahy, the people in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the President will ultimately have to decide.”

Transcript:

Q: Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón is considering a lawsuit filed by attorneys representing six Spaniards who were at one point held at Guantanamo. And that lawsuit wants to go after President Bush’s legal team. What is your reaction to that?

OBAMA: Well, you know, obviously I’ve been very clear that Guantanamo is to be closed, that some of the practices of enhanced interrogation techniques I think ran counter to American values and American traditions. So I’ve put an end to these policies. I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.

So I have not had direct conversations with the Spanish government about these issues. My team has been in communications with them. I think that we are moving a process forward here in the United States to understand what happened, but also to focus on how we make sure that the manner in which we operate currently is consistent with our values and our traditions.

And so my sense is, is that this will be worked out over time.

Update

Holder said today that it “would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department,” announcing that he would not prosecute CIA officials who committed torture:

Holder also stressed that intelligence community officials who acted reasonably and relied in good faith on authoritative legal advice from the Justice Department that their conduct was lawful, and conformed their conduct to that advice, would not face federal prosecutions for that conduct.

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