President Barack Obama is facing new demands that he investigate former President George W. Bush for ordering torture.
The former president admitted in his new book Decision Points that he ordered waterboarding of terrorist detainees. Amnesty International, and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) have both called on the Obama administration to launch an investigation.
Now the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is joining that effort.
In his book, Bush asserts that he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether he would support the agency’s waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind.
“Damn right,” Bush admits he told the CIA.
Bush defended his decision by telling NBC’s Matt Lauer that waterboarding was legal “because the lawyer said it was.”
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder (.pdf) Wednesday, the ACLU noted, “The Department of Justice has made clear that waterboarding is torture and, as such, a crime under the federal anti-torture statute.”
Holder has tapped Assistant US Attorney John Durham to look into whether the CIA or contractors went beyond legal interrogation methods. That investigation is ongoing, according to NPR. But the scope of Durham’s investigation does not include White House officials.
“In light of the admission by the former President, and the legally correct determination by the Department of Justice that waterboarding is a crime, you should ensure that Mr. Durham’s current investigation into detainee interrogations encompasses the conduct and decisions of former President Bush,” wrote ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.
Amnesty International Senior Director Claudio Cordone said in a statement that the Obama administration must prosecute the former president.
“If his admission is substantiated, the USA has the obligation to prosecute him,” he said. “In the absence of a US investigation, other states must step in and carry out such an investigation themselves.”
In a press release Wednesday, Nadler also pressed the Obama administration to look into Bush’s waterboarding orders.
“Waterboarding has long been considered torture – a view shared by the Obama Administration – and committing or ordering torture is a severe crime under both international and U.S. laws, for which we have convicted foreigners and Americans in the past,” Nadler said. “The President is bound by the Constitution to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’ Failure to order a criminal investigation would be a serious dereliction of duty. With President Bush’s admission, no further excuses or evasions are conscionable.”
“It is a smoking gun,” Nadler told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz Wednesday. “I’m dubious that he will do it because this administration unfortunately has taken the opinion, taken the attitude that they’re not going to look at any criminal actions by, within the prior administration. They say ‘let’s look forward, not backward.’ By that standard no one would be prosecuted for any crime.”
But it’s not just Democrats and rights groups that have Bush in their sights. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has said that he has “no hesitation” in investigating the former commander in chief.
“I’m not afraid of going after the Bush administration,” he told MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Tuesday. “I wasn’t brought here by the establishment.”