Widening an explosive debate on torture, President Barack Obama on Tuesday opened the possibility of prosecution for Bush-era lawyers who authorized brutal interrogation of terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation.The players:
Less than a week after declaring it was time for the nation to move on rather than "laying blame for the past," Obama found himself describing what might be done next to investigate what he called the loss of "our moral bearings."
His comments all but ensured that the vexing issue of detainee interrogation during the Bush administration will live on well into the new president's term. Obama, who severely criticized the harsh techniques during the campaign, is feeling pressure from his party's liberal wing to come down hard on the subject. At the same time, Republicans including former Vice President Dick Cheney are insisting the methods helped protect the nation and are assailing Obama for revealing Justice Department memos detailing them.
The three men facing the most scrutiny are former Justice Department officials Jay Bybee, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury. Bybee is currently a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Yoo is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.While it's not as important as lying about oral sex, conspiracy to commit torture is a big deal.
It might be argued that the officials were simply doing their jobs, providing legal advice for the Bush administration. However, John Strait, a law professor at Seattle University said, "I think there are a slew of potential charges."
Those could include conspiracy to commit felonies, including torture, he suggested.
Bybee also could face impeachment in Congress if lawmakers were so inclined.