It's Official: Obama Will Not Prosecute CIA Torturers

The White House has announced that CIA operatives, including contractors, who followed Bush guidelines for torturing prisoners will


not

be prosecuted for these actions, regardless of the Obama administration’s position on the legality of the techniques they used. “[I]t is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” President Obama said in a

statement

released today. This seems to be part of a deal struck with the CIA over the release of several torture memos today.

“It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

The Washington Post also reported:

For the first time, officials said that they would provide legal representation at no cost to CIA employees in international tribunals or U.S. congressional inquiries into alleged torture. They also said they would indemnify agency workers against any possible financial judgments.

This comes as the White House released the three “Bradbury” memos, drafted in 2005, detailing CIA ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques and torture. The administration has also reportedly released a 2002 memo written by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo and signed by Jay Bybee. The New York Times described that memo as “a legal authorization for a laundry list of proposed C.I.A. interrogation techniques.”

The Bradbury memos are named for Steven Bradbury, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under Bush.

The decision apparently came “after a tense internal debate,” culminating with a  “final round of deliberations” Wednesday night over the release, which was fiercely opposed by the CIA, which said their release would threaten national security. The administration faced a deadline of today for the release of the documents under a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Bybee memo was put on the table April 2 as part of a negotiation between the ACLU and the White House after the Justice Department asked for a delay of two weeks to make a decision on releasing the Bradbury memos.

There has been much speculation in recent days that the White House may release redacted versions of the memos, which sparked protests from the ACLU and other civil liberties groups and activists. It was also opposed by some administration officials, including Attorney General Holder, who reportedly supported a more complete release. In releasing the documents, Obama cited “exceptional circumstances” compelling him to release them and a desire to correct “erroneous and inflammatory assumptions” about US actions.

If the White House has released them unredacted—and we do not yet know if it has— that would be a victory. But, the apparent deal not to prosecute CIA torturers makes it a very sour victory.

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