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Defying Obama, Democrats press for hearings on CIA torture allegations

April 30th, 2009

Democrats in Congress are pushing for further investigation into the “advanced interrogation” techniques used by CIA officials on suspected al-Qaida members.

Methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and slapping the face were chronicled in four memorandums released by the Obama administration last week.

The highlight of these memorandums includes Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as having been waterboarded a total of 266 times.

Zubaydah is a suspected leader of al-Qaida, while Mohammed is believed to be the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The report has led many to dismiss the Bush administration’s insistence that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib had been the act of a few misguided soldiers.

Both Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama have said that CIA officers who carried out the interrogations would not be prosecuted because they were only following legal opinions developed by Bush administration officials.

Instead, the officials who developed the legal opinions are the ones being sought out.

According to The Associated Press, Obama said that if there were to be an investigation, an independent commission – similar to the one used after Sept. 11 – would be a better model to follow than congressional hearings.

However, Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are already moving towards congressional investigations.

Dwight Hahn, a political science professor at John Carroll University, said, “I think investigation of this issue is important because it says that no one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. And that is essential to maintaining a democracy. It’s not about looking at the past so much as it is about setting the limits of presidential power both today, here and now, and the future.”

However, such investigations threaten to create a split down party lines.

Already, Republicans are calling for the release of two confidential memorandums that they claim will show that Democrats had approved of the interrogation methods in question.

This would shift the blame from Republicans back to the Democrats.

Nonetheless, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California argued that her Intelligence Committee is already investigating the interrogation program.

Several senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, agree that many questions will be answered from this investigation.

“I don’t know a better way to get the facts than through the intelligence committee,” Reid told CNN.

Republicans, on the other hand, view the release of the memos as a purely political move by the Democrats.

Senator John McCain of Arizona told reporters that it was best for the country to simply move on.

According to CNN, McCain said, “If we prosecute individuals for providing their best recommendation to the President of the United States, it will have a chilling effect from now on.”

In fact, McCain, along with Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, wrote a joint letter to Obama urging him not to prosecute the government officials that provided the legal opinions on the interrogations.

Obama said the decision to prosecute is ultimately up to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Though it remains undecided whether or not these prosecutions will take place, Holder is adamant about solving the problem.

According to CNN, Holder said, “It is my responsibility as the attorney general to enforce the law. It is my duty to enforce the law. If I see evidence of wrongdoing I will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law and I will do that in an appropriate way.”