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Debate over Interrogation Tactics Continues

Kaitlynn Riely

Posted: Apr 21st 2009 8:43AM

Filed under: Politics, News, Notre Dame

President Obama is making a mistake by not pursuing any prosecutions for those responsible for the harsh interrogation techniques that were used during the Bush administration.

Last week, I posted a blog piece about the legal memos released by the Justice Department that detailed the interrogation techniques used by the United States on people suspected of involvement in terrorist acts or planning. Obama reportedly agonized over the release of the memos, weighing whether their release was necessary for transparency of government or whether releasing the memos would compromise the security of the United States.

When he did release them, he announced that those who had carried out the torture, believing their actions were lawful, would not be subject to prosecution.

George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week," asked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Sunday whether the president also ruled out prosecution for the officials who devised the torture polices.

Emanuel responded: "He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided."

Stephanopoulos followed up with the same question.

"Yeah, but those who devised the policy, he believes that they were, should not be prosecuted either," Emanuel said.

Obama visited the Central Intelligence Agency Monday to thank agents for their service and to offer reassurance about the after effects of the release of the memos.

"Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes," Obama said. "That's how we learn. But the fact that we are willing to acknowledge them and then move forward, that is precisely why I am proud to be President of the United States, and that's why you should be proud to be members of the CIA."

If the policy in place before was a mistake, if it was wrong, if it was torture, how can we just "move forward" without anyone facing retribution for their actions, or for what they allowed to happen?

If there's no penalty for breaking the U.S. law against torture, the law will be hard to enforce in the future. News sources have reported that two captured al Qaeda operatives were subjected to waterboarding 266 times. If waterboarding is torture, then the law has been broken, and someone, or multiple people, must face the consequences.

A day after Emanuel's interview, The New York Times reported that White House aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush-era lawyers who legally justified using the harsh interrogation techniques.

The change to U.S. interrogation policy is a good step forward, but if Obama allows those who developed the interrogation policy used under the Bush administration to go unpunished, then the United States' past mistakes will not be fully corrected, and our moral standing in the world will be questionable.

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