The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the White House is debating whether or not to issue pardons for administration officials who were responsible for several controversial national security policies, the most notable being the inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees.

“Some Republicans have been pushing for President George W. Bush to grant
pre-emptive clemency to officials who fear being investigated by Democratic
critics. White House officials have countered that such pardons are unnecessary,
these people say. The officials point to Justice Department legal opinions that
supported the administration’s methods of detaining and interrogating terror

On the campaign trail, President-Elect Obama stated repeatedly that he would pursue policies that end the use of torture and degrading treatment. Michael Isikoff at Newsweek offers more insight into the discussions going on behind the scenes in the transition about how to change policy and deal with those responsible for the policies that led the United States to engage in torture and other forms of degrading treatment.

“But one idea that has currency among some top Obama advisers is setting up a
9/11-style commission that would investigate counterterrorism policies and make
public as many details as possible. “At a minimum, the American people have to
be able to see and judge what happened,” said one senior adviser, who asked not
to be identified talking about policy matters. The commission would be empowered
to order the U.S. intelligence agencies to open their files for review and
question senior officials who approved “waterboarding” and other controversial

Human Rights First has called for the new administration of President-Elect Obama in his first six months in office to establish a non-partisan commission to establish the truth about the origin and impact of these policies on U.S. national security. (Read more about HRF’s plan for How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment).


Published on November 26, 2008


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