Languages
Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 15:41 UK

Obama refuses to halt CIA probe

Barack Obama
President Obama said he would not interfere in the legal process

President Obama has rejected a request by seven former heads of the CIA to end the inquiry into allegations of abuse of suspects held by the agency.

"Nobody's above the law," Mr Obama said in an interview with the American CBS television programme Face The Nation.

The US Attorney General Eric Holder last month named a prosecutor to examine whether the CIA had gone beyond approved interrogation methods.

The former heads wrote to Mr Obama saying the probe would hamper CIA work.

They said the cases had already been investigated during the Bush administration and lawyers had declined to prosecute in all but one.

"This approach will seriously damage the willingness of intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country," their letter read.

"In our judgment, such risk-taking is vital to success in the long and difficult fight against terrorists who continue to threaten us."

The former CIA chiefs served under Republican and Democratic presidents.

Beyond Bush era

But Mr Obama made clear he would not intervene in the judicial process.

"I appreciate the former CIA directors wanting to look after an institution that they helped to build," he told CBS.

"But I continue to believe that nobody's above the law. And I want to make sure that, as president of the United States, I'm not asserting in some way that my decisions overrule the decisions of prosecutors who are there to uphold the law."

President Obama made clear that he has consistently said he wants to look beyond the Bush administration, which human rights groups have accused of using torture to gain information from suspects in violation of US and international law.

Guantanamo Bay detainees in 2002
The inquiry into alleged prisoner abuse was announced in August

Bush-era officials, including former Vice-President Dick Cheney, have defended their actions and said interrogations yielded valuable intelligence.

Mr Obama said that the attorney general had to make a judgment about what happened.

"My understanding is it's not a criminal investigation at this point. They are simply investigating what took place," he said.

"I don't want witchhunts taking place. I've also said, though, that the attorney general has a job to uphold the law."

The attorney general's spokesman Mark Miller has said Mr Holder does not believe his investigation will affect CIA employees' commitment to their work.

"The attorney general's decision to order a preliminary review into this matter was made in line with his duty to examine the facts and to follow the law.

"As he has made clear, the department of justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees," Mr Miller said in a written statement.

The seven former CIA directors also warned that foreign governments could be hesitant to co-operate with the US if the inquiry continues.

The current CIA Director Leon Panetta was not a signatory to the letter, but he opposed Mr Holder's investigation.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
CIA 'threatened' terror suspects
22 Aug 09 |  Americas
CIA probes could derail Obama's plans
13 Jul 09 |  Americas
Did America break its torture law?
13 Jul 09 |  Americas
Cheney 'ordered CIA to hide plan'
13 Jul 09 |  Americas
Fresh torture claims against CIA
16 Jun 09 |  Americas

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific