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Should Bush White House Be Investigated for Crimes?

Until last week, legal experts doubted George W. Bush, or anyone in his administration, would face criminal charges after his presidency finished.

But, revelations that top Bush administration officials participated in explicit conversations in the White House regarding torture techniques to be used on suspected terrorists have these experts taking a second look.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama has promised he would have his justice department investigate the Bush administration for war crimes — but seeks a balance between pursuing justice and orchestrating a finger-pointing circus. Obama said,

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. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

So what do you think? Should the country move on, and let the commuted Scooter Libby be the sole (symbolic) legal casualty of Bush's scandals? Are investigations even necessary?


thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
I'll grant waterboarded is better than beheaded - I don't think anyone would disagree with that. But that still doesn't justify us using waterboarding - or anything else that could be considered torture, for that matter - and when we do, it truly does put our service men and women at greater risk. As for the legality of various techniques, this is part of a transcript from a recent House hearing where Congressman Robert Wexler was questioning FBI chief Robert Mueller about his having told his agents not to get involved with CIA interrogation to avoid them putting them in potential legal jeopardy over the CIA's techniques:
Wexler: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved” end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy” end quote. Wexler: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place? Mueller: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.
So Mueller was concerned enough about what the CIA was doing that he didn't want his agents involved. Wexler tried to press Mueller to say whether the CIA's actions were legal or illegal, and Mueller's response was repeatedly that all he could say is that the FBI followed their own protocol and that he couldn't comment on what other agencies did. Wexler pointed out that, as the top law enforcement officer in the nation, Mueller has the authority to investigate other agencies, which Mueller confirmed, but Mueller *still* refused to indicate if the CIA's techniques were legal or not. IF the techniques the CIA is using are legal, why wouldn't Mueller just say so? His refusal to answer the question, combined with his telling his agents not to get involved in the CIA's interrogations indicates that - at best - he, the top law enforcement officer in the nation, isn't sure if the techniques being used are legal or not, and doesn't want to risk getting his feet stuck in the muck. It definitely doesn't sound like he's at all confident of the Justice Department's claim that what we're doing is legal.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
If all they are submitted to is waterboarding, I'd scream with thankfullness. Unfortunately, most of the soldiers that are captured are returned missing their heads....
thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
Except, Dave, by the standards of most other western nations - our peers - what we're doing IS torture. We're not calling it torture because the Bush administration's legal department worked out a way to redefine "torture" so that it exclude waterboarding. But as far as the rest of the world is considered, under the most common interpretations of the Geneva Pact, waterboarding crosses the line. Unfortunately, the people most likely to pay for our legal chicanery aren't necessarily going to be the ones we use it on, but our service men and women that are captured by enemies who decide that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I have little doubt that if, say, Iranian forces or Al Qaeda were to capture our soldiers and submit them to waterboarding, we'd be screaming foul loud enough for the moon to hear us.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
"So I would genuinely like to understand why it's important that we - at best - snuggle up as close as possible to the line of what constitutes torture or - at worst - smashing right through it," The reason they want to know what we can and can't do in information gathering is so they can use approved methods to gain the necessary information. I'm not going to argue that people in the information gathering business haven't made mistakes in the decades that they've been in service, but to describe what they do "torture" is wrong.
jvpdc jvpdc 9 years
And that should be 3000 people murdered in TWO hours...not 20...sorry for the typo.
jvpdc jvpdc 9 years
Thorswitch - speaking myself only - I do not "support" torture. Perhaps support for the Administration - and I would argue ANY administration - to make determinations about what is legal and effective in the pursuit of intelligence is being confused as support for torture. I think there will always be tactics used that would make most civilians uncomfortable (not in a physical sense, but an intellectual sense.) As you said, tactics like waterboarding probably only work in extreme cases, and as you said, we've used it 3 times. One of those times was on Khlaid Sheik Mohammed. Real intel about potential attacks was gained from him. That's been made public. Another concern I personally have with large, public commissions or trials is the potential revealing of too much classified information - tactics, methods, etc. It's a real concern. I'm all for prosecuting abuse of power - it cannot and should not be tolerated. I just think there's a different perspective out there on what this adminstration did, or felt they had to do. I would respectfully suggest you imagine being in their shoes - 3000 innocent people were murdered in 20 hours. What was going to happen next? How were they going to stop the next attack? They discussed these things because they felt they had to, not because they felt like figuring out how to torture people. I have to take a hiatus from posting for personal reasons - but I'll still enjoy reading your discussions!
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
Thank you so much, thorswitch.
thorswitch thorswitch 9 years
I've noticed that there seems to be a level of support for torture (and by virtually any measure *other* than the Bush Administration's, waterboarding - which we have admitted to having used on 3 people - counts as torture) among some of the more conservative members. Obviously, you are entitled to your opinion and I do respect that, but I'm not sure I understand the foundation for your support. I know that many believe that torturing someone will extract information that otherwise might not be obtainable, but studies - and experience - have shown that if it works at all, it is only in extremely rare situations. I would speculate that people who would be most susceptible to give up information under torture would show a weakness of spirit in other ways and would be unlikely to be entrusted with important information. In general, people who are subjected to torture are known to say pretty much whatever they think their torturers want to hear in order to get them to stop. If, for example, we were to torture someone to get information on a subject that they honestly do not know anything about, they will make up information - completely useless information - to get the torture to stop, since the torturers are unlikely to take "I don't know" as an answer and back off. And if someone does have potentially useful information, but it truly dedicated to their cause, it wouldn't be at all difficult for them to offer false information to get relief from the pain. Even under the infamous "ticking time-bomb" scenario, torture is unlikely to gain usable results. Say that a suspected terrorist actually does know where a ticking time bomb is. Since there's a specific point after which any information he might have will be useless - i.e. when the bomb explodes (because if he tells you the location after it goes off, what can you do - it all ready went off.) If he is being tortured, he could resist for a while, so that when he does give the torturers information they'll be more likely to believe he "caved" under the pain, and then give them completely false information which - obviously - would have to be checked out. He knows that doing so will focus resources and energy somewhere other than where the bomb actually is, and that's time during which he gets a break from the pain and time for his group's plan to be successful. So I would genuinely like to understand why it's important that we - at best - snuggle up as close as possible to the line of what constitutes torture or - at worst - smashing right through it, especially given the damage it has done (which is immense) to our standing with the international community and which increases the likelihood that an enemy country may decide that since we approve of using torturous methods, they can use them as well, against our servicemen and women? I would have thought after Watergate, politicians of BOTH parties would understand that just because a President and/or his legal staff say something is "legal" doesn't mean it actually is. Since that lesson clearly hasn't gotten through to everyone yet, I feel that it is imperative that we have a thorough investigation and, if necessary, criminal trials - which will likely have issues that will have to be decided by the Supreme Court and should help clarify for future presidents (of either party) where the boundaries of their power lies.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
"So Basically, things like 9/11 are the blowback that WE have to live with because our CIA is running around the world rigging and sabotaging and assasinating and two-timing." So, if 9/11 is a blowback from a previous CIA dealings, and the person in charge of the CIA throughout the 90's was Bill Clinton, should we go after Clinton too then?
jvpdc jvpdc 9 years
Wow lizadilly - I had no idea the CIA was responsible for assassinating democratically elected leaders?! Like who? Please name one for me? I don't know if you are aware that our military and CIA have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001 trying to get bin Laden. I will concede that he has gotten away from our grasp more than once...but people are still dying in the pursuit of him and their sacrifice deserves a little more respect. As for no 9/11 suspects - are you familiar w/ the names Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Faraz al-Libby? They happen to be the admitted masterminds of 9/11 and they are in U.S. custody. The CIA and the military found them. Must have been dumb luck. Are we seeking to exploit the resources of Colombia by trying to enter into a Free Trade Agreement w/ them? Were we seeking to exploit Central America when we were helping prevent the spread of communisim, the same form of government that has destroyed Cuba? On Valerie Plame - her civil suit was dismissed last year. They appealed but haven't been successful.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I said No, because it would be all about posturing, marking territory and it would be a media circus. Besides just let old George retire to his ranch and let it go.
lizadilly lizadilly 9 years
jvpdc c'mon, what are you twelve? Have you been paying attention? The CIA et al aren't out finding terrorists -- where is Bin Laden? O that's right, Bush doesn't care. He's not even wanted for 9/11, actually; they still don't have a official suspect for 9/11. Sweet sleuthing there. If you knew anything about our covert ops beyond the massive PR campaign initiated by Eisenhower and carried through by every movie and TV show since, you'd know they've been the most powerful and ubiquitous network of terrorist-enablers for the last sixty years. They have funded, armed and trained guerrillas (including Bin Laden, before he went rogue) for THE purpose of disrupting elections and assasinating democratically elected leaders in strategic countries. They traffic drugs, keep native people indigent, and have weakened regions like Central America to facilitate the total exploitation of their resources. As far as keeping us "safe" -- what that means is they try to cover their ass, because they know the people/countries they screwed over are going to retaliate, and when they do, they are going to attack *us* -- American civilians and troops -- not the CIA agents themselves. So Basically, things like 9/11 are the blowback that WE have to live with because our CIA is running around the world rigging and sabotaging and assasinating and two-timing. They are not trying to keep America "safe", they are trying to keep it a huge, infaliable superpower, which are not only not the same thing, they are mutually exclusive. O and this isn't just some crazy "conspiracy theory" action -- this is information acknowledged in declassified CIA documents and iterated by historians, insiders and officials. It's the kind of stuff anyone can know if they weren't so content with being spoon-fed imagery of our brave men and their code rings and shoe-phones.
Ha, that sounds dumb! It was supposed to say "...chance to follow that." :)
I know that the first case had been thrown out a while back. But, I saw them on Bill Maher a few months ago and they were discussing some sort of civil suit. Are you speaking of the civil suit being thrown out, or the first case? Just wondering, I've been rather busy lately and have not had the chance to look follow that.
lizadilly lizadilly 9 years
This whole war was declared illegally, and on evidence they knowingly fabricated no less. Thousands of people have died, and our grand-children won't live to see our country out from under the debt it's put us in. All so they can occupy an oil-rich territory and line their pockets with reconstruction profits. Yes they should be tried for Constitutional crimes, war crimes, violations of human rights treaties, and treason. And when the gavel comes down on their guilty asses it might be the only time I celebrate harder than the '04 World Series.
jvpdc jvpdc 9 years
Yes - but Obama is running on the premise of being something different. As we are now seeing, he's not. He's the same as all the rest, if not worse. Only the most cynical politicians take their opponents comments completely out of context and then try to bash them with them. And in case you hadn't heard BrandyNicole, Valerie Plame's suit was thrown out of court recently. It was baseless. She and Joe can now enjoy life out of the spotlight in New Mexico.
Well, we can only hope Valerie Plame follows through on having Dick Cheney and the bunch tried for treason. Yea, not supposed to out your own spies.
stephley stephley 9 years
Yes, he is a politician, he's never made a secret of that fact. If you read beyond this one article, it's not just left-leaning groups that think this Administration may have acted illegally - politicians in the middle and some former military officers also have raised questions and voiced concerns that current policies will make the U.S. and its forces less safe in the future because we have violated our own, and international, rules.
jvpdc jvpdc 9 years
Congress exercises oversight and criminal activities are prosecuted. There have been multiple military prosecutions, including those involved in Abu Gharib. If anyone here has followed the links to the actual story, they would see that it is full of quotes from the ACLU and other admitedly left-wing organizations. Not exactly objective opinions. These same groups have filed suit against the Bush Administration on issues like military tribunals. These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. If anyone in these groups feel they have grounds for criminal prosecution, they should file suit and let the courts handle it. In the meantime, our military, our CIA, our FBI, and the law enforcement and intelligence communities will continue working to connect the dots, track terrorists and keep us safe. As for Obama - I thought he was all about rising above politics and bringing our country together??? This doesn't seem to be the way to do it. He's a politician like the rest of them!
Jillness Jillness 9 years
"Aren't you supposed to find out what the rules are so you can play by them??" The problem for me, is that they discussed the boundaries, and then crossed them. Waterboarding wasn't legal. The fact that they talked about it first, makes it all the more incriminating to me.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
"If we dragged every President into impeachment hearings for perjury, we wouldn't have a government." This is poor logic. Because it is a common occurrence we should let people slide? If a President commits perjury, no matter what the subject, it is against the law and yes we should prosecute. Maybe then they will get the picture.
stephley stephley 9 years
Oh, if it's just about opinions, I couldn't support it. If it's an actual inquiry into whether any laws were broken, then I think it's worth it. We shouldn't build policy on illegalities.
cine_lover cine_lover 9 years
"All I said was that PERJURY is a huge deal to me NO MATTER THE FREAKING REASON! So stop excusing him for doing something that everyone knows is WRONG (lying under oath!)" Thank you Syako!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I'm not saying that if there is sufficient enough evidence to warrant an investigation that it wouldn't be worth it, but I just don't see this improving or making worse anyone's opinion of him or this country. So it just seems fruitless.
stephley stephley 9 years
I think any organized crime boss would like to try that defense Cabaker 'you're not gonna believe any jury that clears me, so why bother?' We have laws and we need to make sure that they're upheld. If he's cleared of any wrongdoing in any matter, then most people will shut up. But look at Clinton, there were extensive, expensive investigations into four or five matters before he was found guilty of lying about a sexual relationship; he wasn't convicted of anything involving Whitewater, travelgate, troopergate or anything else they threw at him. Should Congress have bothered?
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