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Cheney, Fleischer slam Obama on 'disgusting' torture probe

By Matthew Shaer / August 25, 2009

Thus far, Former President George W. Bush has kept out of the fray. But this week, several prominent members of Dubya's administration harshly criticized the Justice Department's decision to probe alleged CIA interrogation abuses – at the same time calling into question the national security credentials of President Barack Obama.

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As Monitor staffer Warren Richey noted yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder has authorized special prosecutor John Durham to look at whether government officials violated the law through harsh treatment of detainees during the Bush administration's war on terror. Specifically, Holder said, he wanted a "preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations."

In April, after the White House released memos detailing interrogation techniques used by the CIA between 2002 and 2005, Obama visited CIA headquarters. "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we have made some mistakes – that's how we learn," Obama said at the time. "So I want to make a point that... I understand that it's hard when you are asked to protect the American people against people who have no scruples and would willingly and gladly kill innocents."

It's a highly-charged issue, to say the least. Many progressives have pushed for a full investigation into so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized by members of the Bush administration. The fact that agents were following orders doesn't matter, these critics say – under law, perpetrators of torture must be prosecuted. Republicans, meanwhile, have shoved back, claiming that a "witch hunt" would divide the agency and further damage the reputation of the US government abroad.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama toed the line. "If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated," he said, adding, according to Salon, "I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of the Republicans as a partisan witch hunt, because I think we've got too many problems to solve."

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