President Holds Open Door For Prosecutions of Bush Officials For Interrogation Policies, Truth Commission

ABC News' Jake Tapper , Sunlen Miller and Yunji de Nies report:

President Obama suggested today that it remained a possibility that the Justice Department might bring charges against officials of the Bush administration who devised harsh interrogation policies that some see as torture. He also suggested that if there is any sort of investigation into these past policies and practices, he would be more inclined to support an independent commission outside the typical congressional hearing process. Both statements represented breaks from previous White House statements on the matter. The Bush-era memos providing legal justifications for enhanced interrogation methods "reflected us losing our moral bearings." The president said that he did not think it was "appropriate" to prosecute those CIA officers who "carried out some of these operations within the four corners of the legal opinions or guidance that had been provided by the White House." But in clear change from language he and members of his administration have used in the past, the president said that "with respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws and I don’t want to prejudge that. I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there." Just yesterday, asked by a reporter as to why the administration was not seeking to "hold accountable" Bush administration lawyers who may have "twisted the law," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "the president is focused on looking forward, that's why." The president made his remarks in the Oval Office during a joint press availability with His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein. Mr. Obama also today said that if there is any sort of commission or investigation into the approval and use of these interrogation methods, he would prefer that it be an independent bipartisan commission and not a congressional hearing, though he was clear to state that he was not expressing an opinion on whether should there be hearings. "If and when there needs to be a further accounting of what took place during this period," the president said, "I think for Congress to examine ways in which it can be done in a bipartisan fashion --outside of the typical hearing progress that can sometimes break down and break entirely along party lines, to accept that there are independent participants who are above reproach and have credibility -- I think that would be a more sensible approach." The president said that he's "not suggesting that should be done but I’m saying that if you’ve got a choice, I think it’s very important for the American people to feel as if this is not being dealt with to provide one side or the other political advantage, but rather it’s being done in order to learn some lessons so that we can move forward in an effective way." Mr. Obama also stated his "general view," that "we should be looking forward and not backwards. I do worry about this getting so politicized that we can not function effectively and it hampers ability our ability to  carry out critical national security operations." He said he considered it his "most profound obligation" to keep "the American people safe" and said he went to the CIA yesterday to communicate to officials who work to protect the American people to say "to all those who overwhelmingly do so in a lawful, dedicated fashion, that I have their back." -- Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Yunji de Nies

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