Will Bush Issue Preemptive Pardons for Administration War Criminals?
George W. Bush is considering issuing blanket pardons for people in his administration involved in torture and rendition. While these may be extended to include low-level operatives who were just following orders, they would likely also cover high-level administration officials who should have known what they were authorizing was unconstitutional and illegal. Pre-emptive pardons, prior to convictions and even charges, would be unprecedented.
Senior intelligence officers are lobbying the outgoing president to look after the men and women who could face charges for following his orders in the war on terrorism.
Many fear that Barack Obama, who has pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and put an end to the policy of extraordinary rendition, could launch a legal witch hunt against those who oversaw the policies after he is sworn in on Jan 20.
Most vulnerable are US intelligence officers who took part in intensive interrogations against terrorist suspects, using techniques including water boarding, which many believe crossed the line into torture.
A former CIA officer familiar with the backstage lobbying for pardons, said: "These are the people President Bush asked to fight the war on terror for him. He gave them the green light to fight tough. The view of many in the intelligence community is that he should not leave them vulnerable to legal censure when he leaves.
"An effort is under way to get pre-emptive pardons. The White House has indicated that the matter is under consideration."
In addition to frontline CIA and military officers, others at risk could include David Addington, Dick Cheney's former counsel, and William Haynes, the former Pentagon general counsel who helped draw up the regulations governing enhanced interrogations.