Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama not ruling out prosecution of Bush officials for crimes in office

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday he was not ruling out possible prosecution for abuses committed under the George Bush administration, saying no one "is above the law".

"We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth," Obama said in an interview aired Sunday on ABC's This Week program when asked about alleged abuses under Bush.

"Obviously we're going to be looking at past practices and I don't believe that anybody is above the law," Obama said.

But Obama, who takes office on January 20, added that he wanted his administration to focus on tackling problems moving forward, rather than reviewing policies under his predecessor.

"My instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing," he said.

"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."

Human rights and civil liberties groups have called for senior Bush administration officials to be prosecuted for a series of alleged abuses, from mishandling the conflict in Iraq to the illegal detention and torture of terrorist suspects and domestic spying.

In the interview, Obama criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for his public defense of "extraordinary" interrogation methods used against top terrorism suspects, including simulated drowning known as waterboarding.

"Vice President Cheney, I think, continues to defend what he calls extraordinary measures or procedures when it comes to interrogations and from my view waterboarding is torture," Obama said.

"I have said that under my administration we will not torture."

Obama declined to say whether he could appoint a special prosecutor to look into possible charges against Bush and his deputies, saying the issue whould be up to his attorney general.

"He is the people's lawyer," he said of the attorney general-designate, Eric Holder.

"So, ultimately, he's going to be making some calls, but my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed looking at what we got wrong in the past."

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