Posted: 22 Apr 2009 10:52 AM PDT
Here's an excerpt from the press gaggle aboard Air Force One earlier today as the President was en route to an Earth Day event in Iowa. Gibbs was once again peppered with questions about Obama's statement yesterday opening the door to a commission to prosecute Bush administration officials over devising interrrogation procedures:
Q Any clarity from yesterday on the President's position on torture memos, and any reaction to Dennis Blair's memo that appeared in papers today?
MR. GIBBS: Well, on the first question, what exactly -- what clarity are you looking for?
Q We're looking -- you said you were going to talk to -- get back to us with clarity on the President's remarks.
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think what -- maybe what I wasn't clear about yesterday and -- because what was said yesterday was exactly what the President has said for not just the past week, as we've dealt with these OLC memos, but for the past many months. Let's just go through the whole sort of decision in general.
The President, at the beginning of his administration, banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques because he believed they were -- they opposed our values and, on balance, they made the country less safe. As part of an ongoing legal proceeding, the President released these memos because there was no legal justification for continuing to keep them classified; that a lot of the information that was contained in the memos, that the types of techniques were in the public domain.
So that is part of the backdrop of where we are. The President also believes that the memos and their release should be a moment for us to reflect, but not a moment for retribution. The President, as he said yesterday, has a lot on his plate and he believes that our focus looking forward should be on the crises that we have in the bank industry, in unemployment, the financial sector, and as he and the Attorney General have said, that while no one is above the law, those that worked within the four corners of the legal advice they were given, and those that acted in good faith based on the advice they were provided should not be subject to interrogation.
That's what the President said -- that's what the President has said all along.
Q Should not be subject to what?
MR. GIBBS: Should not be subject to prosecution.
Q The President said yesterday that he wanted to ensure that if there was any kind of investigation, politics were not part of the equation. Given that, would he be supportive at some point appointing a special prosecutor to look into these Bush-era officials?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think this goes into the -- in some ways, the non-clarity of yesterday. Let me use an example. If you go in the back of the plane, Air Force One, and spray-paint the walls and smoke in the bathroom, the President isn't going to determine whether you broke the law; a legal official is going to determine whether you broke the law. That's the determination that will be made in any instance whereby anybody knowingly breaks the law.
Q But due to the fact that his AG, Eric Holder, is a political appointee, would it not be less political to have a prosecutor to look into these issues?
MR. GIBBS: I think that the lawyers that are involved are plenty capable of determining whether any law has been broken. I want to stress that that determination is not going to be made by the President, or the Vice President, or anybody that works in the White House, because that's why many, many, many, many moons ago we created a Department of Justice.