Turley: Obama 'owns' Bush 'war crimes' if he looks the other way
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Tuesday January 13, 2009


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President George W. Bush's offhand acknowledgement in an interview Sunday with Fox's Brit Hume that he personally authorized the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may create thorny legal and moral problems for incoming President Barack Obama.

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday, "We now have President Bush speaking quite candidly that he was in the loop, we have Dick Cheney who almost bragged about it. The question for Barack Obama is whether he wants to own part of this by looking the other way."

Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, "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."

"If waterboarding is torture -- and Barack Obama has said that it is torture," Turley emphasized, "and torture is a war crime, then the president has committed a war crime if he did order waterboarding. You have to do some heavy lifting to avoid the simplicity of that logic."

Turley noted that individual CIA officers who carried out torture may be able to invoke the so-called "Gestapo defense" -- that they only followed orders they were assured were legal -- but that defense does not hold for those who gave the orders.

"It only works if you can reasonably rely on the advice, and it generally does not protect people like Bush," Turley explained. "You really can't go out and get radical or extreme lawyers, like John Yoo and Viet Dinh, and get them to enable you to do things that you know is a war crime."

"There's no real question that crimes were committed here by {Obama's] predecessor," concluded Turley, "and he can either begin his administration as a man of principle, and allow the law to take us wherever it may lead, or he will inherit the same type of moral relativism that really corrupted the previous administration. I'm going to say a silent prayer for principle."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Jan. 12, 2009.




Download video via RawReplay.com



 
 


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