Obama saves US officials from CIA waterboarding charges

Obama issued the statement before the release of several memos dating from the Bush administration era which authorised the harsh interrogation of detainees by CIA employees.

Obama saves US officials from CIA waterboarding charges

CIA officials who used waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on so-called terrorism suspects will not face prosecution, President Barack Obama said on Thursday.

The US president issued the statement before the release of several memos dating from the Bush administration era which authorised the harsh interrogation of detainees by CIA employees.

The four memos Obama released include the repeated slamming of a prisoner's head against a padded wall, face-slapping and sleep deprivation, as well as waterboarding.

Withholding food, forcing prisoners to stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods, confinement in a cramped box and putting insects into the box with a prisoner who had a strong fear of insects were also authorised by the documents.

Also shielding CIA employees from foreign tribunals

"I have already ended the techniques described in the memos," Obama said in a written statement released shortly after he arrived on a visit to Mexico.

However, he said "The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. ... We must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs."

The Obama administration also said it would try to shield CIA employees from "any international or foreign tribunal" -- an immediate challenge to Spain, where a judge has said will investigate Bush administration officials.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States would pay for lawyers to defend any CIA employees in state or federal proceedings over interrogations and indemnify them from suits.

No more excuses

Human rights advocates denounced Obama, saying charges were needed to prevent future abuses and hold people accountable, and some lawmakers called for public investigations.

"There can be no more excuses for putting off criminal investigations of officials who authorized torture, lawyers who justified it and interrogators who broke the law," American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said.

Administration officials within the Justice Department or the White House were not covered by Obama's policy, a department official said. But he gave no sign that any criminal investigation was being contemplated.

The four memos were released in response to an ACLU Freedom of Information lawsuit. They represent the Bush administration's legal justification for interrogation methods and have been called torture by U.S. critics and many countries.

Violating U.S. laws against torture is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, or if a person dies, by execution or life in prison.

The first memo, from 2002, approves waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning -- and other harsh techniques on so-called terrorism suspect. It was written by former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee for the CIA's top lawyer, John Rizzo.

One memo said 28 suspects received harsh interrogations out of 94 held in the CIA's program.

The actions are unlikely to end debate. "This is not the end of the road on these issues. More requests will come -- from the public, from Congress, and the courts -- and more information is sure to be released," CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a letter to employees.

Panetta has said he considers waterboarding to be torture.

Panetta told the US congress last week that the secret sites where CIA prisoners were waterboarded and interrogated by other harsh means were to be closed.

However, he said he had no intention of prosecuting any CIA employees for their role in a secret programme that was deemed legal at the time.

Obama ordered the Guantanamo prison camp closed within a year shortly after taking office and also signed an order instructing the CIA to abide by rules set out in the US army field manual, saying the US will never again condone torture.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 17 Nisan 2009, 11:33