STEPHANOPOULOS: How about them taking that to the next step. Right now the CIA has a special program, would you require that that program -- basically every government interrogation program be under the same standard, be in accordance with the army field manual?
OBAMA: My general view is that our United States military is under fire and has huge stakes in getting good intelligence. And if our top army commanders feel comfortable with interrogation techniques that are squarely within the
boundaries of rule of law, our constitution and international standards, then
those are things that we should be able to (INAUDIBLE)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no more special CIA program?
OBAMA: I'm not going to lay out a particular program because again, I thought that Dick Cheney's advice was good, which is let's make sure we know everything that's being done. But the interesting thing George was that during the campaign, although John McCain and I had a lot of differences on a lot of issues, this is one where we didn't have a difference, which is that it is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals and that's what I intend to carry forward in my administration.
Wow. Obama punts on a basic, simple question - is the CIA going to have a special program? One that breaks international laws? If you can say no to torture, you can say no to the CIA special programs. Because those programs ARE torture. More:
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no 9/11 commission with Independence subpoena power?
OBAMA: We have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn't mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation's going to be to move forward.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me just press that one more time. You're not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence wherever it leads?
OBAMA: What I -- I think my general view when it comes to my attorney general is he is the people's lawyer. Eric Holder's been nominated. His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interests of the American people, not to be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So, ultimately, he's going to be making some calls, but my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed looking at what we got wrong in the past.
What's interesting is that the media rarely attempts to apply the concept of command responsibility to the situation of CIA sponsored torture. It's presented instead as a witchhunt for individual torturers and case officers. But the international precedent is to prosecute the top - people like Brennan, Tenet, and Kappes.
Obama doesn't want people "looking over their shoulders and lawyering" - but it's not the little guys who should even be in that position. The CIA command - the very top - SHOULD and SHOULD HAVE been looking over their shoulders and lawyering - determining if what they wanted to do and set as policy was truly legal and sound. It was not. It was their job to do that for their staff. They failed.
Why Obama buys so much of the CIA B.S., I don't know. It's obvious (the Abu Omar case is the best example) that the CIA officials at the top are worried only about their skins, not their operatives'. To hold the senior management accountable is not going to detract from the work done by operatives across the globe. Obama should stop framing the case against the CIA this way - it's deliberately misleading and demonizes the left.