[JURIST] Former US vice president Dick Cheney [JURIST news archive] accused President Barack Obama [official website] of backtracking on his promise to not prosecute Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agents for alleged abuses of suspected terrorist detainees under the Bush administration during an interview [transcript] with Fox News Sunday, calling it a political move. Cheney's statements come after Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] announced [JURIST report] last week that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] will "open a preliminary review" into allegations of prisoner abuse by CIA interrogators during the Bush administration. Cheney accused the Obama administration of setting bad precedent if they should move forward with the investigations. When asked whether he believed the "preliminary review" would become a criminal investigation he responded:
I have no idea whether it will or not, but it shouldn't. The fact of the matter is the lawyers in the Justice Department who gave us those opinions had every right to give us the opinions they did. Now you get a new administration and they say, well, we didn't like those opinions, we're going to go investigate those lawyers and perhaps have them disbarred. I just think it's an outrageous precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized look back at the prior administration ... I just think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions, without having to worry about what the next administration is going to say.
Holder's decision to initiate a preliminary review followed a recommendation by the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) [official website]. The White House press secretary said [press release] that Obama would not prevent Holder from opening investigations despite the president's stated desire to look towards the future, not the past.
Bush-era intelligence policy has been highly contested since the change in administration earlier this year. Last week, the DOJ released [JURIST report] a much anticipated 2004 CIA inspector general report [text, PDF] detailing controversial interrogation techniques used on terror detainees. Last month, members of Congress urged an investigation [JURIST report] into a CIA assassination plan that Dick Cheney allegedly hid from Congress. Also in July, five federal agencies released a report [text; JURIST report] on the prior administration's warrantless wiretapping program that reviewed both the flawed legal origins of the program and questioned the effectiveness of information produced by wiretapping international communications of American citizens. In May, Cheney defended the national security policies [speech transcript; JURIST report] of the Bush administration speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) [organization website], while criticizing many of Obama's security policies.