[JURIST] US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript] lawyers responsible for authoring memos released last week [JURIST report] outlining CIA interrogation policies. Obama had previously said that he would not pursue prosecutions of CIA interrogators [statement], a pledge which drew sharp international criticism [JURIST report]. Obama confirmed Tuesday that he would not seek the prosecution of agents involved in the interrogations, but said that he was open to holding the memos' authors accountable for the alleged abuse. report] holding lawyers who authored the memos accountable for the interrogation techniques, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], which many have described as "torture." Obama said that Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] would determine whether they would be prosecuted. In response to Obama's statements, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] called for the resignation [AFP report] of federal judge Jay Bybee, who authored one of the memos while serving as assistant attorney general during the Bush administration. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] executive director Anthony Romero said [press release], "Torture is a crime, and we are hopeful that President Obama's comments today signal a new acknowledgment of the need for criminal investigations of those who authorized, legally justified and carried out these unlawful acts..
The public release of the memos came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit [materials] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] during the George W. Bush administration. The ACLU has also called for an independent investigator [press release] to probe allegations of torture during the Bush administration. Earlier this month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released a final version of a report [JURIST report] calling on Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether any criminal laws were violated. In March, Leahy also called for an investigation [JURIST report] into Bush administration policies through the formation of a "truth commission."