John Dean: 'Serious consequences' if Obama doesn't prosecute torture
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Friday December 19, 2008

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Vice President Dick Cheney's admission that he authorized waterboarding has focused attention on possible Bush administration war crimes, and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean believes there will be "serious consequences" if the Obama administration tries to avoid singling out those involved for prosecution.

"I would be surprised if Cheney really wants to test the law," Dean told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Thursday, "but he's getting out there pretty close to it. I think most of the people who might be involved are trying to stay below the cover and hope that the statute of limitations ... will pass."

Olbermann asked Dean why Democratic leaders like Sen. Carl Levin have been proposing a special commission to investigate allegations of torture, "rather than the incoming attorney general, Mr. Holder, just sending somebody out to arrest these guys before they leave the capital."

"There is a degree of conventional wisdom that suspects that Mr. Obama really doesn't want to take this issue on," Dean replied. "It's not a unifying move."

Olbermann noted that the problem with bipartisan special commissions, like the one created after 9/11, is that they are "almost openly dedicated to not pointing fingers."

"Don't we have to point fingers?" he asked Dean. "Is that not the way justice works?"

Dean agreed, saying that if those involved in war crimes are not singled out, "this is going to really reflect terribly on the entire country, not just on the Bush administration which has engaged in these activities, but it really will reflect on the Obama administration for its refusal to pursue them and prosecute them."

"I think there's serious consequences if they refuse to point fingers," Dean stated.

Olbermann asked what Dean saw as the best and most realistic outcome, and Dean replied that it "would be if Mr. Obama, indeed, does exactly what he said during the campaign -- that he will, indeed, when his attorney general is seated, have him instructed to immediately look and see if these offenses have been committed, if they are prosecutable ... and then report to him and the nation to make it very clear that this is not the policy of the Obama administration or the United States."

When Olbermann then asked what he thought was the "most likely outcome," Dean laughed and replied, "Given ... the heat [Obama's] going to take on Rick Warren, he's going to take an awful lot more heat if he doesn't do something to honor his campaign commitments."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Dec. 18, 2008.

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